North Korea tests seven missiles on US Independence Day
Seoul/Washington (PTI): In its second biggest salvo of ballistic weaponry in three years, North Korea today test-fired seven missiles, sending a message of defiance to its arch-rival, the United States, on its Independence Day.
The seven missiles, all believed to be short- or intermediate-range types, were fired toward the Sea of Japan from its southeastern region, the South Korean military said.
It was the biggest salvo of ballistic weaponry since Pyongyang fired seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 rocket on US Independence Day in 2006.
Pyongyang's actions are seen to be a clear expression of its stern posture against the United States, Japan, South Korea and other members of the international community that have stepped up pressure on the reclusive nation through UN Security Council sanctions resolutions in response to its recent nuclear test and missile launches.
Reacting to the sabre-rattling by the North, the US said Pyongyang should "refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and focus on denuclearisation talks."
"This type of North Korean behaviour is not helpful," State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth said.
US President Barack Obama had said on Friday that after Pyongyang conducted an underground nuclear test in May, the UN approved "the most robust sanction regime that we've ever seen with respect to North Korea."
Mr. Obama had expressed optimism he could get international agreement for even tougher action if North Korea should persist in defying demands that it dismantle its nuclear weapons and stop production.
The UN sanctions, for instance, did not include one thing Washington wanted: allowing the use of military force to board and inspect ships suspected of carrying banned weapons.
"In international diplomacy, people tend to want to go in stages," Mr. Obama said. "There potentially is room for more later," he was quoted as saying by AP.
The Japanese and South Korean governments separately condemned the missile launches as provocative actions that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
"The military, on the basis of a strong joint defence alliance with the United States, is fully prepared to fend off any threats or provocations by the North," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Describing the series of missiles tests as a "provocative act," it said it clearly violated three UNSC resolutions, including the latest one on June 12 which toughened weapons-related sanctions on the North in response to its May 25 nuclear test.
Japan also condemned the North's missile launches and warned that it would take "appropriate measures" to implement the UNSC resolutions.
"It is a serious act of provocation against the security of neighbouring countries, including our country," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.
Kawamura warned Tokyo would "promptly take appropriate measures" to implement the resolution.
The South Korean military believes the missiles flew about 400-500 kilometres offshore before falling into the Sea of Japan, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korean media said that the missiles may be short-range Scud types with a range capability of 300-500 km, while Japanese and South Korean government sources said they could be Rodong intermediate-range missiles that were flown distances shorter than their range of about 1,300 km.
North Korea fired six ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan between 8 a.m. and 4:10 p.m., and the seventh, believed to also be a ballistic missile, at around 5:40 p.m., according to the South Korean military.
Speculation had been rife that the North may launch missiles on the occasion of Independence Day in the United States on Saturday.
The ballistic missile launches came after Pyongyang test-fired four surface-to-ship missiles off its east coast into the Sea of Japan on Thursday.
North Korea is believed to have an arsenal of 600 Soviet-era short-range Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, deployed since the 1980s, Kyodo news agency reported.
The Scud-C, with a range of 500 km, is an updated version of the Soviet-made Scud-B missiles, which have a range of 300 km. Both types of missiles are launched from vehicles.