North Korea fired a short-range missile toward waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, a South Korean intelligence official said Tuesday, amid signs of progress in ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The North “fired the short-range missile around 3:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. ET),” the South Korean official said, asking not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
He said the range of the missile is about 62 miles but did not give further details.
The missile launch, the second in as many weeks, came as the United States and South Korea and their regional partners explore ways on how to persuade Pyongyang to quickly shut down its nuclear reactor.
The U.N. nuclear inspectors plan to visit the communist nation next week to discuss how to monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, as agreed to by Pyongyang under a February agreement.
The process of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear program was stalled for months by a dispute over about $25 million in North Korean funds that were frozen in a Macau bank backlisted by the United States.
North Korean state media said Saturday that enough progress had been made on the issue that a “working-level delegation” from the IAEA had been invited to discuss procedures for the verification and monitoring of the reactor’s shutdown, as agreed under the February pact. North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors in December 2002.
North Korea had boycotted the six-party nuclear talks for more than a year, saying the financial freeze was a sign of Washington’s hostility. It conducted its first-ever atomic bomb test last October.
Envoy: Money transfer resolved
Hill said Tuesday that the banking issue, which involved the transfer of the money from Macau’s Banco Delta Asia to a North Korean account in Russia via the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Russian central bank, is resolved.
“As far as we know, it’s been transferred. As of yesterday, we understand that the final glitch ... was resolved. I’m sure the money is in the North Korean bank account today. You should go check,” he said as he left for Tokyo.
Hill said the transfer involved “the total amount” of disputed North Korean funds, and said it was “something like $23 million.”
It was not clear why the amount is different from what has been reported.
Earlier in the day, Hill said that the North Korean account is in a bank in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and any delay in transferring the money from the central bank would be due to the vast time difference from Moscow.
South Korea plans to start shipping 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea by the time it shuts down its nuclear reactor as part of the disarmament deal. North Korea is to eventually receive further aid equivalent to 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil in return for irreversibly disabling the reactor and declaring all of its nuclear programs.