Pyongyang launches missiles into sea

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Pyongyang launches missiles into sea

Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles into the sea off the east coast of the peninsula yesterday amid ongoing joint military drills between the United States and South Korea.

The South Korean Ministry of Defense responded promptly by warning North Korea to “immediately halt such provocative actions that can endanger civilians.”

The North fired the missiles around 6:20 a.m. yesterday from launch sites in the Kitdaeryong and Wonsan regions in a northeastern direction toward the sea, the ministry said.

The missiles, believed to be Scud-Cs, flew more than 500 kilometers (310 miles), Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said yesterday.

This comes just four days after North Korea launched similar Scud rockets last week.

On Thursday, North Korea test fired four short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea from a launch site in Kitdaeryong, a mountainous region in Kangwon Province, which flew about 220 kilometers in a northeastern direction.

Additionally, on Feb. 21 - while the two governments held inter-Korean reunions for families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War, from Feb. 20 to 25 in Mount Kumgang - Pyongyang fired off four artillery shells on the east coast with new multiple rocket launchers, which the South Korean military speculated could be KN-09 missiles with a range of about 150 kilometers.

Spokesman Kim warned that North Korea has a “two-faced approach,” going back and forth between conciliatory gestures and military provocations, and pointed out that its missile launches are a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

“It seems like a response to the Korea-U.S. Key Resolve military drill, which started Feb. 24, which can be analyzed as a lower-intensity armed protest that employs asymmetric warfare,” a military source said in regard to the launch.

The timing of the missiles coincides with South Korean missionary Kim Jung-uk’s press conference last week and the release of Australian missionary John Short yesterday.

Kim revealed on Feb. 27 that he had been detained for about four months over allegations that he spread Christian material in Pyongyang.

Some analysts surmise it is a strategy by North Korea to get the international community’s attention and pull strings in Seoul and Washington.

“Releasing an Australian citizen while holding Kim [Jung-uk] and Kenneth Bae, South Korean and U.S. citizens, can hold some sort of message,” said Kim Keun-sik, a North Korean studies professor at Kyungnam University, “which can be a message to Seoul and Washington to choose between dialogue or confrontation.”

The North has traditionally demonstrated provocative behavior during annual joint U.S.-South Korea war games, and Pyongyang raised tensions last year during this period.

Its missile launch also comes as Tokyo and Pyongyang kicked off Red Cross talks yesterday in Shenyang, northeastern China, the first meeting between Japanese and North Korean officials under the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The informal talks were attended by Red Cross and government officials from both nations, including Keiichi Ono, the director of the Northeast Asia Division of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and Ryu Song-il, head of Japanese affairs at the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG YONG-SOO [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]





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