North Korea launches four short-range missiles - media
27 February 2014, 15:17
North Korea has launched four short-range missiles toward the sea off the country's east coast on Thursday, a media official at South Korea's Defence Ministry said, while providing no information on the purpose of the firing.
North Korea fired the missiles at 5:42 pm (8:42 GMT) from a mountain site just north of the border with the South, the official said.
A ministry spokesman told AFP the missiles, with an estimated range of 200 kilometres, were fired off the east coast of North Korea.
'Our military will maintain tight vigilance in preparation for additional launches or any military provocation from the North,' the spokesman said.
North Korea has in the past fired short-range missiles into the sea as part of military exercises.
The firing came days after the beginning of annual joint US and South Korean military exercises which the North routinely denounces as preparation for war.
The North was angered this month when a nuclear-capable US B-52 bomber made a sortie over South Korea, though the flight did not trigger a sharp escalation of military tension.
The South's Yonhap News Agency said the missiles fired on Thursday were believed to have a range of about 200 km (125 miles), which means they could not reach Japan.
South Korea kicks off joint military exercises with US despite opposition from N Korea
South Korea kicked off its annual joint military exercises with the United States on Monday, despite vocal opposition from North Korea, which could threaten a recent upswing in cross-border ties.
The start of this year's drills coincides with the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korea War - an event that has raised hopes of greater North-South cooperation.
Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after Tuesday's reunion, but Seoul refused and, in a rare concession, the North allowed the family gathering to go ahead as scheduled.
The annual 'Key Resolve' and 'Foal Eagle' drills, routinely condemned by North Korea as 'rehearsals for invasion', will last until April 18 and involve a combined total of 12,700 US troops and many more from South Korea.
'Key Resolve' lasts just over a week and is a largely computer-simulated exercise, while the eight-week 'Foal Eagle' drill involves air, ground and naval field training.
Seoul and Washington insist they are both defensive in nature, playing out various North Korean invasion scenarios.
Last year's exercises fuelled an unusually sharp and protracted surge in military tension, with Pyongyang threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and nuclear capable US stealth bombers making dummy runs over the Korean peninsula.
US defence officials have indicated, in an apparent effort to mollify the North, that this year's drills will be slightly toned down, with no aircraft carrier and no strategic bombers.
However, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok insisted Monday that there would be 'no readjustment' in the scale of manoeuvres.
Voice of Russia, RIA, Reuters, AFP
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