Seoul: North Korea Fired Short-Range Missiles Into Sea

North Korea’s artillery sub-units, whose mission is to strike Daeyeonpyeong island and Baengnyeong island of South Korea, conduct a live shell firing drill on March 14, 2013. (Photo: KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL— South Korea confirmed Friday that rival North Korea fired four short-range Scud missiles into the sea a day earlier in an apparent attempt to protest against ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.

The launches, however, weren’t expected to raise tensions as North Korea routinely tests short-range missiles and it has recently sought better ties with South Korea in what outside analysts say is an attempt to win badly needed foreign investment and aid. The rival Koreas this month held their first reunions of Korean War-divided families in more than three years.

Four projectiles with a range of more than 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) landed off the North’s eastern coast on Thursday, and South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters Friday that an analysis of their speed and trajectory showed they were Scud missiles.

Defense officials also confirmed reports that North Korea fired four other short-range KN-02 missiles with a range of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the east coast one week ago.

Kim said South Korean officials didn’t disclose last Friday’s launches because North Korea frequently test-launches missiles with a range of less than 100 kilometers. But Kim said Scud-series missiles, which are capable of hitting all of South Korea, are a security treat and Thursday’s Scud launches were the first of that kind since 2009.

He said there are no signs that North Korea is preparing for additional missile launches.

Analysts said the launches were largely aimed at protesting the South Korea-U.S. military drills that began Monday and won’t be a prelude to a spike in tension between the rival Koreas.

“The launches were a test designed to improve its missile capability and also an armed protest against the drills,” said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea. “But we already know (they have Scud missiles) … We also have such a level of missiles. The launches didn’t have special meaning.”

Last year, North Korea furiously reacted to the same South Korean-U.S. military drills by issuing a torrent of fiery rhetoric and threats to launch nuclear missiles against Seoul and Washington. Last year’s drills came after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. The U.S. took the unusual step of sending nuclear-capable bombers in a show of its resolve to protect its ally.

North Korea hasn’t issued any harsh rhetoric against the current drills after their start. Seoul and Washington have said the annual drills are defensive in nature.

Pyongyang earlier threatened to scrap the arrangement for the family reunions in anger over the drills but later allowed them to proceed after high-level talks with Seoul.

Earlier Thursday, North Korea presented to the media a South Korean missionary who it says was arrested last year for allegedly trying to establish underground Christian churches in the country. South Korea urged North Korea to quickly release him.

The Korean Peninsula officially remains at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

One Response to Seoul: North Korea Fired Short-Range Missiles Into Sea

  1. It happened too fast to figure out as it was happening. My very best guess:

    “Not” Russian troops, or troops who were put (Putin) up to it, fire upon demonstrators in Kiev, Ukraine. They shoot people on both sides, because they aren’t locals, and have difficulty figuring out who is on which side. Kill a bunch of people and get out of there quickly. Create some sort of reason for the new Kiev government not to immediately investigate the matter. (Was that really my brother in law?) Pass a rumor to the Estonians that the demonstrators were shot be friends of the new government, and have an Estonian diplomatic conversation on the matter leaked to the press.

    Why would I think so? It’s all too neat. Why was Russia super prepared to invade the Crimea? Why could the former Ukrainian President get chased out of his own country so quickly?

    But Russia has just spent 51 billion dollars on the Sochi (Putin’s favorite resort) Olympics. What is the Crimea worth, anyway? And Putin can grab the balance of Ukraine at his leisure. And Belorussia, etc, etc, etc. The US has sent a few extra planes to NATO, but it isn’t filling the Black Sea with aircraft carriers.

    Historians may take a generation to be able to document exactly what happened. And Putin will go down in the Russian history books as having outfoxed the western democracies in restoring the Russian Empire.

    And China smiles with approval. It’s busy grabbing islands right now.

    North Korea, doesn’t this make you worried?

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