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(5th LD) Moon urges N. Korea not to cross 'point of no return'

All Headlines 17:20 July 04, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with additional remarks from President Moon, minor changes in paras 2-6, 18-19; TRIMS)

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday warned North Korea not to cross a "red line" after it claimed a successful test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Moon urged the North to immediately halt its provocations, saying he is not sure what kind of consequence the communist state will have to face if it crosses the "red line."

"I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return," the South Korean leader said in a meeting with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, according to his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan.

His remarks came shortly after he ordered his top security officials to seek "UN Security Council measures" in close cooperation with the country's allies, including the United States in an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

North Korea launched what initially appeared to be an intermediate range missile at 9:40 a.m.

Later, the North's official media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed an order to test launch a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the day before, also claiming the success of its launch.

Moon earlier noted the North may develop an ICBM in the "not too distant future."

The North Korean reports said the new ICBM, Hwasong-14, reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers, and flew 933 kilometers.

When launched at the right angle, the missile could reach up to 8,000 km, experts have noted.

Moon, even prior to the North Korean reports, told his security officials to handle the latest provocation as if it were an ICBM.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (second from L) chairs an emergency meeting of the National Security Council at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on July 4, 2017, shortly after North Korea launched what was believed to be an intermediate range missile in its sixth missile provocation since Moon came into office in May. (Yonhap)

"We plan to devise necessary measures assuming it may have been an ICBM," he told the NSC meeting, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

"I strongly urge North Korea to come out of its delusion that nuclear and missile development ensures its safety and make a decision to denuclearize," he said.

Other South Korean officials also warned the North may face "much stronger sanctions" should its latest missile launch be confirmed to have involved an ICBM.

"If it is confirmed to have been an ICBM, I believe the level of pressure and sanctions currently imposed on North Korea will likely escalate," a ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, while speaking on condition of anonymity.

The latest North Korean missile launch came shortly after the South Korean president returned home from a visit to Washington, where he and his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, agreed to seek a phased denuclearization of the North, enabling a resumption of dialogue with the reclusive state following its initial steps to denuclearize.

"I express a deep disappointment and regret over the fact that North Korea staged such a provocation only a few days after President Trump and I urged North Korea to reduce its provocations, refrain from military action that causes instability, and make a strategic decision to abide by international duties and regulations," Moon said.

"North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles are a matter of our life or death that threatens the very safety and lives of our people and our allies. We will not tolerate any such threat under any circumstances."

Still, officials here said the country's move to resume dialogue with the communist North remained unchanged despite its latest provocation.

"The policy to seek the resumption of dialogue while maintaining maximum pressure remains unchanged," a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, while asking not to be identified.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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