North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into seas to the east off its coast yesterday, 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 (習近平) 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 hold talks with Japan this week to work out the details of Pyongyang’s plan to reinvestigate 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 Korean Peninsula and flew about 500km before crashing harmlessly into the water, an official for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The test firings came three days after the North launched three short-range projectiles into the waters off its east coast, which flew about 190km and landed in the sea. Such launches are routine.
North Korea frequently test-fires short range multi-rocket launchers, which are not prohibited under UN sanctions on the 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 tests of its ballistic missiles and rockets 11 times this year, including four involving ballistic missiles.
The 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.
Yesterday’s launch came less than a week before Xi’s visit to Seoul on Thursday and Friday.
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 tomorrow, a North Korean foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by Japanese media.