North Korea fires weapons after threatening ‘momentous’ action

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — North Korea fired three short-range projectiles off its east coast yesterday, South Korea’s military said, two days after the North threatened to take “momentous” action to protest outside condemnation over its earlier live-fire exercises.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)said the multiple kinds of projectiles fired from the eastern coastal town of Sondok flew as far as 200 kilometres at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometres before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

A JCS statement said South Korea expressed “strong regret” over the launches that it said violate a past inter-Korean agreement aimed at lowering military animosities. South Korea’s national security director, defence minister and spy chief held an emergency video conference and agreed the North Korean action were not helpful to efforts to establish a peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired suspected ballistic missiles. He said the multiple North Korean projectiles travelled 100 to 200 kilometres but none landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“North Korea’s latest action, on top of its repeated firings of ballistic missiles, is a serious threat to the peace and safety of Japan and … a grave problem for the entire international society,” Suga said.

In the past 10 days, North Korea has said leader Kim Jong-un supervised two rounds of live-fire artillery exercises in its first weapons tests since late November. Kim had entered the new year with a vow to bolster his nuclear deterrent and not to be bound by a major weapons test moratorium amid a deadlock in a United States (US)-led diplomacy aimed at convincing Kim to abandon his nuclear programme in return for economic and political benefits.

South Korea and some European countries protested against the second North Korea drills on March 2, which they believe involved ballistic missile launches in a violation of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions. North Korea insists it has the right to conduct military drills in the face of US and South Korean forces on its doorstep.

The UN Security Council didn’t issue any statement after discussing North Korea’s March 2 drills, but five European members condemned what they called “provocative actions.” Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom said afterward that the tests undermine regional and international peace, security and stability.

People watch a TV showing file images of North Korea’s missile launch during a news programme at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP