North Korea preparing to launch more missiles: reports

North Korea is reportedly preparing to launch three or four more missiles including another long-range Taepodong-2.

North Korea is reportedly preparing to launch three or four more missiles including another long-rangeTaepodong-2,despite international condemnation for test-firing a flurry of missilesinto the Sea of Japan Tuesday and Wednesday.

The missiles aresaid to be either short-ormedium-range, andare on launch pads and ready for firing, major South Korean newspapers reported Thursday.

NBC News reported that North Korea was also preparing tolaunch another long-range Taepodong-2 missile but the missile is not yet on the launch pad.

Meanwhile, North Korea confirmed Thursday that it test-launched missiles. The statement, from the Foreign Ministry, said the country had the "legal right" to test-launch the missiles and vowed it would continue to do so to strengthen its self-defense.

North Korea has test-fired at least seven missiles in 24 hours, sparking worldwide condemnation for breaking a moratorium in place since 1999.

The long-range Taepodong-2, believed to be able to reach continental North America,fell short of its targetshortly after being launched Tuesday. The latest launch came several hours after a bout of sustained activity, during which five short-range models crashed into the Sea of Japan.

Japan, which called for swift action from the United Nations Security Council, circulated a resolution tothe council's 15 membersdemanding member nations withhold funds, goods and technology that could be used for North Korea's missile program. The resolution was backed by the U.S. and Britain.

But China, North Korea'smost important ally,and Russia said they favour a weaker council statement without any threat ofsanctions. Both countries hold veto power in the council. The others are the U.S., France and Britain.

China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said he favoured a statement rather than a resolution or sanctions,Reuters reported. Russia's UN Ambassador Vitali Churkin also said he favours a diplomatic solution.

No agreement was reached.Council members meet again on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, repeating Washington's position that the issue is not solely between the U.S. and North Korea but is a world concern, said there was little support for Pyongyang during the council meeting.

"No member defended what North Korea had done," Bolton said.

Join six-party talks: Bush

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she doesn't know what the motivation for the missile launches is, but saidthey've drawn a strong reaction from the international community.

Rice, speaking Wednesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, said Pyongyang would be wise to abandon brinkmanship and return to six-party talks onits weapons program.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who in 2002 called North Korea, Iraq and Iranan "axis of evil,"said themissilefiringsfurther isolate the country.

"North Korea can join the community of nations and improve its lot by acting in concert with those of us who believe it shouldn't possess nuclear weapons," said Bush.

The U.S. is sending its chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill, to the region later this week.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay added Canada's voice to the world condemnation on Wednesday, calling the launches a "major threat" to stability in the region. Echoing Rice, MacKay chided Pyongyang for its use of "brinkmanship" in dealing with the international community.

"Canada believes that such tactics are counterproductive and ultimately destined to fail," he said in a news release posted on the Foreign Affairs Department's website.

Missiles failed

White Housepress secretaryTony Snow said the U.S. military believes the long-range Taepodong-2's flight was not aborted, but was a "launch failure."

The intercontinental missile dropped into the Sea of Japan 42 seconds after it was launched. Bush administration officials have characterized it as a "failure."

Analysts with the military magazine Jane's Defence Weekly say the missile launches, while brief, provide North Korea with some data and experience that could be used in future launches.

Officials at North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) in Colorado are studying the long-range missile's telemetry to determine its path andthe nations over whichit could have flown.

It's believed North Korea last test-fired missiles in 1998. The Taepodong-1 crossed Japanese airspace before landing in the sea. It announced a missile-launch moratorium a year later, a ban it said last month no longer applied.

With files from Associated Press