North fires 25 short-range rockets over 3 hours

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North fires 25 short-range rockets over 3 hours

North Korea test-fired 25 short-range rockets toward international waters off its east coast, dismissed as a “saber-rattling provocation” by South Korea’s Ministry of Defense yesterday.

Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a briefing yesterday in Seoul that the military is keeping an eye on the possibility of further launches. “Although we are analyzing the intention of North Korea as to why it launched such a number of rockets, firing that many [rockets] is an act of provocation aimed at saber rattling,” Kim said.

The rockets were fired Sunday in three rounds at 6:28 p.m., 8:03 p.m. and 9:28 p.m. from a launch site in Kalma, a coastal part of Wonsan city, Kangwon Province, in the direction of the northeastern waters of North Korean territory, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The range of the rockets was about 70-kilometers (43.4 miles), the South Korean military said. The Defense Ministry’s Kim said the projectiles were all FROG surface-to-surface rockets that North Korea imported from the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, although the South’s military still describes them as a “quite destructive weapon.”

The South Korean military said it was rare for Pyongyang to fire dozens of rockets in one night without giving a warning to vessels in the region in advance.

“North Korea should not perform actions that could raise military tensions or concerns with neighboring countries,” Kim said.

Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, said in an emailed statement from Washington: “We are aware of reports that North Korea fired a number of rockets into the sea. We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula. We once again call on North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions.”

The launch came amid ongoing South Korea-Washington joint military drills, dubbed Foal Eagle, scheduled to go through mid-April. North Korea has protested the exercises, calling them “a war rehearsal.” The allies say the annual drills are for self-defense.

On Feb. 21, when the two Koreas were holding reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in Mount Kumgang, North Korea, the regime fired off four advanced ballistic rockets toward the East Sea with a range of 150 kilometers, according to the South Korean military.

On Feb. 27, three days after the Seoul-Washington military exercises kicked off, Pyongyang once again fired four Scud-type missiles with a range of 220 kilometers. Two more rockets followed on March 3, with a 50-kilometer range, and seven more rockets with an unknown range blasted off the following day. On March 5, North Korea claimed through its state media that the launches were defensive and warned against any retaliatory international sanctions.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]



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