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    Missile launches legitimate defence against US: North Korea

    SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea yesterday defended its recent flurry of missile tests as a legitimate counter to United States (US) military threats.

    The reclusive communist country has conducted six sanctions-busting launches in less than two weeks, the latest coming on Thursday with the firing of a pair of ballistic missiles.

    On Tuesday, it fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, prompting an alert for people in affected areas underneath to take cover.

    “The missile test launch by North Korea is a regular and planned self-defensive step for defending the country’s security and the regional peace from the US direct military threats that have lasted for more than half a century,” North Korea’s civil aviation agency said, without specifying which launch, according to state-run news agency KCNA.

    The government agency issued the statement after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), holding its annual assembly in Montreal, on Friday condemned North Korea’s missile tests of recent months and called them a danger to civil aviation.

    The Korean agency said the ICAO’s resolution was “a political provocation of the US and its vassal forces aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK” – the initials of North Korea’s official name.

    Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have ramped up joint military drills in recent weeks, and carried out more exercises on Thursday involving a US Navy destroyer from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier’s strike group.

    The launches are part of a record year of weapons tests by isolated North Korea, which leader Kim Jong-un has declared an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.

    The US on Friday imposed sanctions on firms and individuals in Asia accused of helping Pyongyang procure fuel in violation of United Nations (UN) sanctions.

    Washington also held a trilateral call with Tokyo and Seoul and the three agreed they would “continue to closely coordinate their near- and longer-term responses, including with allies and UN partners”, the US State Department said in a statement.

    USS Ronald Reagan is escorted as it arrives in Busan, South Korea. PHOTO: AP
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