North Korea fires three missiles in test launches

NORTH Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into its waters yesterday, a South Korean official said.

Kim Jong-un: minister replaced. Picture: Getty
Kim Jong-un: minister replaced. Picture: Getty

It routinely tests such missiles, but the latest launches came during a period of diplomacy aimed at easing tensions.

The North fired two missiles yesterday morning and another in the afternoon, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. He said the North’s intent was unclear. His ministry said it is watching North Korea carefully in case it conducts a provocation against South Korea.

In March, North Korea launched what appeared to be two KN-02 missiles off its east coast. Experts believe it is trying to improve the range and accuracy of its arsenal.

It recently withdrew two mid-range Musudan missiles believed to be capable of reaching Guam after moving them to its east coast earlier this year, US officials said. The North is banned from testing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.

Earlier this year, North Korea threatened nuclear strikes on Seoul and Washington because of annual US-South Korean military drills and UN sanctions imposed over its third nuclear test in February. The drills ended last month.

This past month, the US and South Korea ended another round of naval drills involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier off the east coast. North Korea calls such drills preparation to invade the North.

Analysts say the recent North Korean threats were partly an attempt to push Washington to agree to disarmament-for-aid talks.

This past week, Glyn Davies, the top US envoy on North Korea, ended trips to South Korea, China and Japan. On Friday, an adviser to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe returned from North Korea but didn’t give details of his talks.

Last Monday, North Korean media showed that the country’s defence minister had been replaced by a little-known army general. Analysts said it was part of leader Kim Jong-un’s efforts to tighten his grip on the military.