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(LEAD) S. Korea says nuclear program will hasten N. Korea's self-destruction

All Headlines 18:18 August 24, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's obsession with nuclear weapons development will only hasten the country's self-destruction, South Korea's foreign ministry said Wednesday, denouncing the communist country's latest test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Pyongyang fired the SLBM from waters off its east coast in the early morning on Wednesday with the missile landing in waters inside Japan's air defense identification zone, according to the South Korean military.

The launch appears to be in protest against a joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise which kicked off its two-week run on Monday. It also came as the top diplomats of South Korea, Japan and China got together in Tokyo for a rare round of talks to improve cooperation.

"The government strongly condemns North Korea's launch of an SLBM that followed the country's repeated provocations including its nuclear test and ballistic missile launches in defiance of the international community's warnings and United Nations Security Council resolutions," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

"If North Korea continues to seek the sophistication of its nuclear and missile capabilities without paying attention to the hardship facing its people, it will only worsen international sanctions and isolation, hastening the country's self-destruction," the statement said.

South Korea remains fully prepared to deal with any North Korean provocations and will react in a stern manner, it said.

The South Korean government urges North Korea "to abandon its nuclear and missile development immediately, verifiably and irreversibly," the statement also said, making clear that Seoul will make "every effort" into tightening international sanctions and pressure on North Korea.

In response to the latest launch, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) started discussions on ways to react to the North's latest show of defiance, a foreign ministry official said.

"Since North Korea's SLBM launch is a violation of UNSC resolutions that ban any North Korean missile launch involving ballistic missile technology, discussion is underway among member countries of the UNSC," the official said, asking not to be named.

The UNSC had been reacting to North Korea's ballistic missile launches with statements of condemnation, but China has vetoed the UNSC's recent attempts to do so in the wake of a diplomatic row with South Korea and the U.S. over their plan to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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