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2009/07/04 19:09 KST
(7th LD) N. Korea fires seven ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea test-launched seven ballistic missiles off its eastern coast on Saturday, South Korea said, in the latest provocation by the communist nation locked in a protracted stand-off with the U.S. and other global powers over its nuclear and missile programs.

   The firing of the seventh missile that appears to be a scud type took place on the east coast at around 5:40 p.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said.

   "It appears to be similar to the previous six missiles fired into the East Sea earlier in the day," a JCS official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
Data picture

North Korea fired two missiles toward the East Sea from the Gitdaeryong base near Wonsan, Gangwon Province, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., according to the JCS.

   It fired another one into the East Sea around 10:45 a.m., and three more at around noon, at 2:50 p.m. and at 4:10 p.m., respectively.

   "All the missiles are estimated to have a range of 400-500km," another JCS official said, declining to be named and adding the military is analyzing the exact missile models.

   Soth Korean officials did not rule out the possibility that what the North fired might have actually been Rodong missiles -- modifications of Scuds -- saying their flight distances may have been shortened deliberately.

   Rodong-type missiles have an estimated range of 1,000-1,500km and are able to reach many parts of Japan.

   The North is believed to have up to 1,000 ballistic missiles alone -- including nearly 700 Scud missiles of various types and 320 Rodong missiles.

   Earlier this week, the North fired a salvo of four KN-01 surface-to-ship missiles from the Sinsang-ni base, South Hamgyong Province, into the East Sea, adding to tensions already running high after the North's launch of a long-range rocket in April and its second nuclear test the following month.
Officials here noted the timing of the latest missile launch, which came on the eve of U.S. Independence Day.

   "The missiles fired on July 2 were analyzed to be part of military drills, but today's missiles seem to have political purposes in that they were fired a day ahead of the U.S. Independence Day," a government official said.

   North Korea test-fired a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, along with several short-and mid-range missiles, on U.S. Independence Day in 2006 and detonated another nuclear bomb this year on May 25 during the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, acts that North Korea watchers said were intended to draw more attention from Washington.

   South Korea's foreign ministry lashed out at the reclusive neighbor's ballistic missile launch, calling it a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the communist nation from any activity related to a ballistic missile program.

   "It is a provocative act that clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874 that bar North Korea's every activity related to ballistic missiles," the ministry said in a statement.

   "The government expresses deep regret over North Korea's continued acts to escalate tensions in Northeast Asia in ignorance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions and urges North Korea to faithfully implement the resolutions," it added.

   The authorities said, however, there is no sign of an imminent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from either its eastern Musudan-ri base or the new Tongchang-ri base on its west coast.

   In April, North Korea threatened to test-fire an ICBM in protest of the U.N. Security Council's condemnation of its long-range rocket launch, which it claimed to be aimed at sending a communications satellite into space.

   Citing satellite photos, U.S. military officials said the North has not mounted an ICBM on a launch pad or injected fuel yet, a process that takes at least a week.

   A British diplomat in Pyongyang also said the North is unlikely to fire an ICBM anytime soon.

   "We have seen no evidence as yet to state that there will be a launch in the next couple of days of an ICBM," Peter Hughes, the British ambassador to North Korea, said in a news conference with reporters in London via video link from Pyongyang.

   He pointed out, however, that "the thing about North Korea is its unpredictability. You cannot say it will never do something."

   Japan also condemned the North's missile launch.

   It is "a serious act of provocation against the security of neighboring countries, including Japan," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said in a statement.