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(3rd LD) N. Korea fires ballistic missile into East Sea

2017/07/04 11:30

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(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with flight distance in paras 2-4, other details in paras 8-9)

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea launched another ballistic missile Tuesday, just a few days after the leaders of South Korea and the United States agreed to leave the door open for dialogue with the communist nation.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea from the vicinity of Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, at around 9:40 a.m.," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. "It flew more than 930 kilometers."

   The distance suggests it's a mid-range missile, given the practice of deliberately shortening the range in testing.

The North's provocation was immediately reported to President Moon Jae-in, it added, as Moon ordered the National Security Council to convene an emergency session.

Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for the JCS, said South Korea and the U.S. are analyzing the apogee of the missile and other details.

"Our military is maintaining full preparedness against the possibility of North Korea's additional provocation," he said.

A file photo of North Korea's ballistic missile launch on May 29, 2017 (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap) A file photo of North Korea's ballistic missile launch on May 29, 2017 (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap)

Japanese media reported that the missile may have landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) after traveling about 40 minutes.

In talks with Moon in Washington, D.C. last week, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for the South Korean president's push for improving inter-Korean relations.

They also emphasized that the door to dialogue with the North remains open "under the right circumstances."

   The North fired four surface-to-ship cruise missiles from its east coast on June 8 in the wake of a Scud-type ballistic missile launch from a nearby area about a week earlier.

The latest launch came as the South's president plans to depart for Germany to attend the Group of 20 summit, where he is scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting with Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

North Korea is apparently diversifying its missile inventory and launch sites as well in order to hide its testing until the last minute.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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