North Korea fires four weapons into sea near Japan

Japan warns of security threat after three of four ballistic missile land in its exclusive economic zone

Japan has lodged a protest and warned of grave threats to security and safety after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on Monday morning, three of which fell into Japanese waters.

The exact type of rocket fired was not immediately clear, but South Koreas military said it was unlikely that they were intercontinental ballistic missiles( ICBM ), which can reach the US. An unnamed US official told Reuters that the US watched no indications that an ICBM had been tested.

According to the military in Seoul, the North fired the unidentified missiles soon after 7.30 am local hour( 2230 GMT Sunday) from the Tongchang-ri region near its border with China. The region is home to the Norths Seohae satellite station, where it has conducted banned long-range rocket launches in recent years.

The latest launches of ballistic missile clearly demonstrate evidence of a new menace from North Korea, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said. The launches are clearly in violation of[ UN] resolutions of the security council. It is an extremely dangerous action.

The rockets flew about 620 miles( 1,000 km) before landing in the Sea of Japan known as the East Sea in Korea with three landing in Japans exclusive economic zone. A fourth splashed down just outside the EEZ.

Three of the missiles landed 186 -2 17 miles( 300 -3 50 km) from the Oga peninsula in Japans Akita prefecture, according to the countrys defense minister, Tomomi Inada.

Japans chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, called the latest missile launch a tomb menace to national security but added that there were no reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area.

South Koreas acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn said the launches were a direct challenge to the international community.

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The rocket flew from Tongchang-ri to an impact point about 186 miles( 300 km) off the Oga Peninsula in Akita prefecture. Photo: Guardian

The US also condemned the launch, vowing that Washington was ready to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.

The United States strongly condemns the DPRKs ballistic missile launchings tonight, which infringe UN resolutions of the security council explicitly prohibiting North Koreas launches employing ballistic missile technology, the State Departments acting spokesman, Mark Toner, said in a statement.

He added: We remain prepared and will continue to take steps to increase our readiness to defend ourselves and our allies from attack, and are prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 20 missile launches last year a sign, say experts, that the countrys leader, Kim Jong-un, is redoubling efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal capable of deterring hatred from the US and South Korea.

In his New Years address, Kim claimed that the North was preparing to test fire an ICBM a development that would dramatically raise the diplomatic and security stakes for Washington.

The US defense secretary, James Mattis, warned last month that any nuclear attack on the US or its allies in the Asia-Pacific would trigger an effective and overwhelming response.

North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests and dozens of missile launches despite six rounds of UN sanctions that began after Pyongyangs first nuclear test in 2006.

Concern is growing that with every new test, North Korea is edging towards developing a fully functioning ICBM that, in theory, could strike the US mainland.

Donald Trumps administration has yet to publicly articulate its policy towards North Korea beyond voicing support for its alliances with Japan and South Korea, home to tens of thousands of US troops. The US president has previously described North Korea as a big, big problem.

Mondays exams were the second North Korea has conducted since Trump became president. Early last month, it test-launched a new intermediate-range rocket known as the Pukguksong-2, into the sea to coincide with Trumps summit with Abe at his Florida estate.

Not merely Pukguksong-2 but newer independent strategic weapons will fly high vigorously in the sky off the ground as long as the United States and the marionette regime are going ahead with their nuclear menace to us and an exercise for invasion war against the North, North Koreas Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers party, said in a commentary last week.

Mondays launchings are believed to be in protest at the start last week of huge joint military exercises involving South Korea and the US that North Korea regards as a rehearsal for an invasion. Pyongyang threatened to take strong retaliatory measures after the annual military drills began last Wednesday but did not elaborate.

Kim ordered troops to be established thorough countermeasures of a merciless strike against the enemys sudden air assault, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

South Korea and the US insist that the Foal Eagle exercisings, which will end in late April, are designed to test the allies preparedness for a serious military provocation from North Korea.

The launches could also be designed to communicate Pyongyangs anger towards China, coming as Xi Jinping attended the 10 -day annual national peoples congress in Beijing.

While China is the Norths merely main ally and biggest donor and trading partner, Beijing has not attempted to hide its opposition to Pyongyangs nuclear ambitions.

Last month, China announced a suspension of all coal importations from North Korea until the end of the year, depriving Pyongyang of an important source of foreign currency.

On Monday Chinas foreign ministry said Beijing resisted the missile launching but noted that it had taken place as the US and South Korea were holding large-scale military exercises targeting North Korea. All sides should exercise restraint and not do anything to irritate one another to worsen regional tensions, a spokesman added.

Xinhua, Chinas official news agency, recommended China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the US to go back to the negotiating table to end wrangles and wrestlings and reopen the long stalled six-party talks that once brought the Korean Peninsula nearest to denuclearisation with a settlement acceptable to all.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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