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North Korea fires more short-range rockets

At least 16 unguided, Soviet-era missiles that Pyongyang has had since the 1960s fired into sea off its east coast.

Last updated: 23 Mar 2014 05:01
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North Korea has been angered by the South Korean-US military drills that are currently taking place [AFP]

North Korea has launched short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast for a second straight day, according to South Korean officials, in what is believed to be Pyongyang's way of protesting US-South Korean military drills.

At least 16 rockets flew about 60-km early on Sunday morning, Colonel Eom Hyo-sik, an official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.

The rockets flew about the same range as the 30 rockets the North fired on Saturday, according to the Associated Press news agency.

South Korea believes the North fired FROG rockets, which are unguided, old Soviet-developed missiles that Pyongyang has had since the 1960s.

Pyongyang claims its rocket launches are part of routine drills and self-defensive in nature, but there have been an unusual number this year.

Six days ago, North Korea also fired 25 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast.

South Korea believes the short-range rocket launches conducted by the North this month are an "armed protest" against the South Korean-US military drills that are currently taking place.

The North has denounced the joint military exercises as a preparation for war, while Seoul and Washington have said the annual drills are defensive in nature.

Early last year, North Korea conducted its third nuclear weapons test, having successfully launched a long-range rocket in 2012 that analyst said was aimed at proving technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both of those are banned under United Nations sanctions.

The Korean Peninsula remains officially at war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

South Korean-China meeting

As tension rise on the peninsula, the South's President Park Geun-Hye is expected to hold a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to reportedly discuss issues including curbing the North's nuclear ambitions, according to the Agence France Presse news agency

Park and Xi will meet on Sunday evening on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit to be held in Hague, Park's spokesman told reporters.

During their fourth summit, the two leaders are expected to discuss issues including the North's nuclear arsenal, Yonhap news agency said.

China is the isolated Pyongyang's sole major ally and economic lifeline and is seen as a key player in resolving the nuclear standoff with the North.

The six-nation nuclear disarmament talks on the North -- chaired by Beijing -- have been stalled since 2008.

Earlier this month, the North's powerful National Defence Commission threatened to demonstrate its nuclear deterrent in the face of what it called US hostility.

Seoul's defence ministry said there was no sign yet of an imminent nuclear test by the North, which staged three atomic tests in 2006, 2009 and last year.

The leaders of the US, South Korea and Japan are also set to meet and discuss North Korea in the Netherlands next week while attending a nuclear security summit.

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Source:
Agencies
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