SEOUL: North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea Sunday, Seoul’s military said, in an apparent show of anger at an upcoming joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States.
The North fired the two ballistic missiles into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at 1:20 and 1:30 am local time, the South’s defence ministry spokesman told AFP. “Their range appeared to be around 500 kilometres (311 miles),” he said, adding Seoul’s military had stepped up monitoring for additional launches.
The move — the latest in a series of similar launches in recent weeks — came a day after Pyongyang condemned an upcoming Seoul-Washington naval joint exercise. The annual drill, from July 16-21, involves the US aircraft carrier George Washington, which arrived in the southern port of Busan on Friday. The North bristled Saturday at the nuclear-powered carrier visiting the port, calling it a “reckless” act of provocation.
“The US should properly understand that the more persistently it resorts to reckless nuclear blackmail and threat, the further (the North) will bolster up its cutting-edge nuclear force for self-defence,” said the North’s top military body, the National Defence Commission. The North has habitually slammed joint military exercises south of the border and often responded with missile test-launches.
UN resolutions bar it from conducting any ballistic missile tests. Sunday’s launch — the fifth in just over two weeks — took place in a sensitive area near the heavily-fortified border with the South, the defence ministry spokesman said without elaborating. Yonhap news agency said the missiles were launched only about 20 kilometres north of the Demilitarised Zone that has divided the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice. The North appears to have moved them from a military base about 50-60 kilometres away by using mobile launchers, Yonhap said, citing an unnamed Seoul army official.
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