North Korea ‘fires four ballistic missiles’


Japanese officials described the launches as a grave threat and said they lodged “strong protests” with the nuclear-armed, reclusive state.

During questions in parliament, Mr Abe said: “The launches are clearly in violation of Security Council resolutions. It is an extremely dangerous action.”

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The missiles were launched early this morning from the Tongchang-ri region, where a missile base is located near the North’s border with China, and flew about 620 miles (1,000 km), South Korean military officials said.

There were no reports of damage to shipping or aircraft.

UK and South Korean joint military drills in March 2016
Image Caption:UK and South Korean joint military drills in March 2016

South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement: “South Korea and the United States are conducting a close-up analysis, regarding further information.”

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In recent months, Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various ranges.

Leader Kim Jong-Un is pushing for a nuclear and missile programme that can deter what he calls US and South Korean hostility towards the North.

Last year, the North fired a long-range rocket from Tongchang-ri that put an object into orbit.

That launch was condemned by the United Nations for violating resolutions that ban the use of missile technology.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un
Image Caption:The ramped-up tests come as Kim Jong-Un pushes for a nuclear and missile programme

There has been widespread concern that the North may soon conduct an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test that, when perfected, could in theory reach US shores.

Washington would consider such a capability a major threat.

Last week, the North threatened to take “strong retaliatory measures” after the South and the US began annual joint military drills on Wednesday which run until late April.

The two countries say the drills test their defensive readiness against possible aggression, but the North criticises them, calling them a preparation for invasion.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un applauds as he watches a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivered his first ever public speech at a major military parade in Pyongyang to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung.

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The North is under heavy international sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes.

Last month, China – the North’s chief ally – announced a suspension of all coal imports from the North until the end of the year, depriving Pyongyang of a crucial source of foreign currency.

China’s foreign ministry said Beijing and Pyongyang were still “friendly neighbours” but added it remained opposed to the North’s nuclear ambitions.


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