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N. Korean missiles can hit us: S. Korea

THE ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired last weekend were likely capable of striking key government and military facilities in South Korea, a defense official said yesterday, amid growing concerns over Pyongyang's firepower.

North Korean state media did not mention the launches but boasted that the country's military could impose "merciless punishment" on those who provoke it.

North Korea launched seven missiles into waters off its east coast on Saturday in a show of force that defied United Nations resolutions and drew international condemnation.

The missiles appear to have traveled about 400 kilometers, meaning they could have reached almost any point in South Korea, an official at the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

The official said the exact details of the launches were still under investigation.

The launches on Saturday saw an escalation of tension as the United States moves to enforce UN as well as its own sanctions against North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned they were "very destabilizing, potentially."

But US Vice President Joe Biden indicated the US would not be baited by attacks on the day Americans celebrated independence. On ABC, he described the flurry of rockets as "attention-seeking behavior."

He added: "I don't want to give the attention."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose government assumed the rotating European Union presidency on July 1, also condemned the launches, calling the move "a conscious political provocation."

North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary that "our revolutionary forces have grown up today as the strong army that can impose merciless punishment against those who offend us."

It was carried yesterday by the official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency - citing a government source it did not identify - reported that five of the seven ballistic missiles landed in one area, indicating their accuracy has improved.


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