North Korea fires missiles, 3 reach Japan waters

SEOUL: North Korea fired multiple missiles from its Tongchang-ri region, where a missile base is located, early on Monday (Mar 6), South Korea’s military said.

The missiles – fired from the country’s east coast – flew 1,000km, the military added.

Tongchang-ri is near the North’s border with China, where the isolated state fired a long-range rocket last year that put an object into orbit and was condemned by the United Nations for violating resolutions that ban the use of missile technology.

A South Korean military official said the launch, which came at 7.36am (6.36am, Singapore time), was being analysed to determine the type of the projectile used.

Seoul said several missiles were filed into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, and that South Korea and the US were “closely analysing” tracking data for further details.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo lodged a “strong protest” to North Korea after the reclusive state launched four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The latest launches of ballistic missiles clearly demonstrate evidence of a new threat from North Korea,” Abe told reporters at his residence.

Seoul and Washington launched annual joint military exercises last week that regularly infuriate Pyongyang, which condemns them as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

No reports of damage to shipping or aircraft had been received since the launches, Japanese officials said.

The US military did not immediately comment. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States also detected apparent launch activity in North Korea but declined to offer details.

Visiting a North Korean army headquarters unit, leader Kim Jong-Un ordered the troops to “set up thorough countermeasures of a merciless strike against the enemy’s sudden air assault”, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said on the day the Foal Eagle exercises started.

North Korea test fired a new type of missile, known as the Pukguksong-2, into the sea early last month, and has said it will continue to launch new strategic weapons.

“Not only Pukguksong-2 but newer independent strategic weapons will fly high vigorously in the sky off the ground as long as the United States and the puppet regime are going ahead with their nuclear threat to us and an exercise for invasion war against the North,” North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party said in a commentary last week.

Last month’s test was the first since US President Donald Trump was elected.

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology. But six sets of UN sanctions since Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

Last year the country conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the continental US.

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