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N. Korea fires seven missiles in new defiance of sanctions

NORTH Korea fired seven ballistic missiles off its eastern coast yesterday in violation of UN resolutions, South Korea said.

The launches, which came two days after North Korea fired what were believed to be four short-range cruise missiles, will likely further escalate tensions in the region as the United States tries to muster support for tough enforcement of the latest UN Security Council resolution imposed on North Korea for its May nuclear test.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said three missiles were fired early yesterday, a fourth around noon and three more in the afternoon. The Defense Ministry said the missiles were ballistic and are believed to have flown more than 400 kilometers.

"Our military is fully ready to counter any North Korean threats and provocations based on strong South Korea-US combined defense posture," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying the missiles appeared to be a type of Scud missile. North Korea's Scuds are considered short-range, the South's military said.

But Yonhap also said it was possible they could have been longer-range Rodong missiles fired over a shorter distance.

Scud missiles have a range of up to 500 kilometers which could hit most of South Korea. The Rodong has a range of up to 1,300 kilometers, putting most parts of Japan within striking distance.

North Korea is not allowed to fire Scuds, medium-range missiles or long-range missiles, all banned under UN resolutions, after North Korea's May 25 nuclear test, and that prohibit any launch using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea's state news agency carried no reports of the launches. But the country had warned ships to stay away from its east coast through to July 10 for military exercises - an indication it was planning launches.

The chief of US Naval operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, said yesterday the American military was ready for any North Korean missile tests.

"Our ships and forces here are prepared for tracking missiles and observing the activities that are going on," Roughead said after meeting Japanese military officials in Tokyo before the launches.

South Korea and Japan, which are within easy range of North Korean missiles, condemned the launches as a "provocative" act.

South Korea "expressed deep regret over the North's continuous behavior that escalates tensions in northeast Asia by repeatedly defying" the resolution, the Foreign Ministry said.


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