Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - Page 5 News List

North Korea test-fires 16 more rockets: South Korea

AFP, SEOUL

North Korea test-fired 16 short-range rockets into the sea yesterday, South Korea’s military said — the latest of dozens launched in recent weeks in apparent protest at joint drills between Seoul and Washington.

The launches took place between about 1am and 2:30am off the North’s east coast, a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman said.

“They were rockets with a range of about 60km,” he said, adding that the projectiles were old versions of Russian-made, unguided Frog rockets.

It is not unusual for Pyongyang to carry out such tests, but there has been a spate of them in recent weeks.

South Korea and the US have called for an end to the “provocative tests.”

About 70 short-range rockets have been fired into the sea this month, including 30 on Saturday.

Analysts say the launches are an expression of Pyongyang’s anger at ongoing annual South Korean-US military drills, which run until next month.

The North has habitually criticized the exercises, along with other military drills staged south of the border, as practice for an invasion. Seoul and Washington insist they are purely defensive in nature.

As tension rise on the peninsula, South Korean President Park Geun-hye was expected to hold a summit yesterday with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to reportedly discuss issues including curbing the North’s nuclear ambitions. Park and Xi were to meet yesterday evening on the eve of a nuclear security summit at The Hague, Park’s spokesman told reporters.

During their fourth summit, the two leaders were expected to discuss issues including the North’s nuclear arsenal, Yonhap news agency said.

China is the isolated Pyongyang’s sole major ally and economic lifeline and is seen as a key player in resolving the nuclear standoff with the North. The six-nation nuclear disarmament talks on the North — chaired by Beijing — have been stalled since 2008.

Earlier this month, the North’s powerful National Defense Commission threatened to demonstrate its nuclear deterrent in the face of what it called US hostility.

The South Korean Ministry of Defense said there was no sign yet of an imminent nuclear test by the North, which staged three atomic tests in 2006, 2009 and last year.

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