North fires short-range missile into the East Sea

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North fires short-range missile into the East Sea

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on Saturday, a South Korean defense official said, adding to its unusually high number of weapons tests this year. The launch came on the eve of the 61st anniversary of the signing of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The missile, fired on Saturday evening from North Korea’s South Hwanghae Province, flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) across the country before landing in the sea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules. He gave no further details.

North Korea routinely test-fires missiles, artillery and rockets, but the number of weapons tests it has conducted this year is much higher than in previous years. Outside analysts say this indicates that North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, is handling things differently than his late father, Kim Jong-il, who sparingly used longer-range missile and nuclear tests as negotiating cards with the outside world to win concessions. Kim Jong-un inherited power upon his father’s death in December 2011.

Analysts also say Kim Jong-un won’t order troops to stop testing weapons unless rival South Korea and the United States make a major concession, such as downsizing their regular joint military drills or conducting them in a low-key manner. Pyongyang calls the drills by Seoul and Washington a rehearsal for invasion, though the allies say they have no intention of attacking North Korea. Annual summertime exercises by South Korean and U.S. troops are slated for next month.

Despite its continuing weapons tests, North Korea has also sent mixed signals by proposing measures that it says would lower tensions with the South, such as halting mutual slandering. South Korean officials have rebuffed the North’s overture, arguing that the North must first demonstrate how serious it is about nuclear disarmament.


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