N. Korea fires ballistic missiles

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People watch a TV news program showing the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.

People watch a TV news program showing the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.

SEOUL: North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into seas east off its coast on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, defying a UN ban on the isolated country testing such weapons. The launch came days before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled state visit to South Korea.

China is the main benefactor of the North, which is also under sanctions for conducting nuclear tests. North Korea is also due to hold talks with Japan this week to work out the details of Pyongyang’s plan to re-investigate the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the reclusive state decades ago.

The missiles, which appeared to be Scud class, were launched from an area on the east coast of the peninsula and flew about 500 km before crashing harmlessly into the water, an official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The test firings on Sunday came three days after the North launched three short-range projectiles into the waters off its east coast, which flew about 190 km and landed in the sea.

A North Korean Defense Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said the missiles were fired from Wonsan and are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles.
The official said North Korea fired the missiles without designating no-sail zones, which the South Korean military views as provocative.

North Korea frequently test-fires short range multirocket launchers, which are not prohibited under UN sanctions on the isolated country. North Korea’s possession and testing of ballistic missiles such as Soviet-era Scuds, however, breach the sanctions, and are seen to contribute to Pyongyang’s long-range missile program.

North Korea has so far conducted test firing of its ballistic missiles and rockets 11 times this year, including four involving ballistic missiles.

The isolated country usually test-fires its short-range rockets and ballistic missiles amid annual US-South Korean military exercises as a form of protest, observers say. Pyongyang routinely denounces the joint military exercises as preparation for war. Sunday’s launch came less than a week before Xi’s July 3-4 visit to South Korea.

Xi and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program in a summit meeting next Thursday. North Korea said the launch was “part of its routine military exercise” and that there should be no affect on planned governmental talks between North Korea and Japan next Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by Japanese media. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Japan wanted to raise the issue during the talks.

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