N Korea fires multiple missiles into sea near Japan

947300SEOUL/TOKYO: North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest coast on Monday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after the reclusive state promised retaliation over US-South Korea military drills it sees as a preparation for war.
South Korea’s military said the missiles were unlikely to have been intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that could reach the US, but flew on average 1,000 km and reached a height of 260 km.
Some of the missiles landed in waters as close as 300 km to Japan’s northwest coast off the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture, Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said in Tokyo.
It is the third time that North Korean missiles have landed within Japan’s EEZ.
In September, the last time, three ballistic missiles flew also about 1,000 km and fell into the zone off Hokkaido. There were no immediate reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area.
“This clearly shows North Korea has entered a new stage of threat,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in the Diet. “Repeated launches by North Korea are a serious, provocative action in terms of security and clearly violate UN Security Council resolutions. We can never tolerate this.”
South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-Ahn condemned the launches as a direct challenge to the international community and said the country would swiftly deploy a US anti-missile defence in the face of angry objections from China.
Roh Jae-Cheon, spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Seoul that there was a “low chance” the projectiles were intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Kim Young-Woo, a South Korean lawmaker and chairman of parliament’s National Defence Committee who was briefed by the JCS, said that the projectile looks similar to the Pukguksong-2 missile that North Korea test-fired last month.
“It seems like the North lowered the angle to aim longer in distance this time as part of its attempts to test it in various ways,” Kim said.
The missiles were launched from the Tongchang-ri region near the North’s border with China, South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-Cheon told a briefing. It was too early to say what the relatively low altitude indicated about the types of missiles, he added.
“South Korea and the US are conducting a close-up analysis, regarding further information,” South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The US military said it detected and tracked what it assessed was a North Korean missile launch, but it did not pose a threat to North America.
— Reuters