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2008/05/31 11:05 KST
N. Korea test fires short-range missiles into West Sea

   SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea this week fired three short-range missiles in what appeared to be a routine test of its aging missile arsenal, government officials said Saturday.

   The communist nation on Friday fired three ship-to-ship missiles, believed to be former Soviet-made Styx with a known range of some 45 kilometers, and two of them appeared to have misfired, the officials said.

   The incident marked the second time the North fired short-range missiles this year in the West Sea where a dispute between the divided Koreas over the maritime border there, known as the Northern Limit Line, led to two deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

   "As in March when the North fired several short-range guided missiles, it appears the firing of the missiles was part of a regular exercise to check the performance of the missiles," an official at the Defense Ministry said, asking not to be identified.

   "It does not appear to have been aimed at provoking the South as the missiles were fired northeast toward North Korean land and from far north of the maritime border," the official said.

   Pyongyang has significantly intensified its hostility toward Seoul since the inauguration in February of the new Lee Myung-bak administration, which has vowed to take a more hard-line stance toward the North than the previous liberal governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

   Calling the South Korean president a "traitor," the North's chief delegate to inter-Korean military dialogue on Friday accused the Seoul government and Japanese civic organizations of scattering anti-communist leaflets throughout the North and warned of grave consequences.

   "The Japanese reactionaries would be well advised not to forget even a moment that the army and people of the DPRK are closely following their daily escalating anti-DPRK moves and Japan's archipelago is within the range of a merciless strike by the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK," the North Korean said in a letter to his South Korean counterpart, according to a report by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

   The DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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