The Province

North Korea fires short-range test missiles into coastal sea

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SEOUL, South Korea — The launch of missiles into the sea by North Korea is not expected to raise tensions in this otherwise fractured peninsula.

South Korean defence officials say that North Korea fired four suspected short-range missiles into its eastern waters Thursday, in an apparent effort to protest ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.

North Korea routinely tests short-range missiles and it has recently sought better ties with South Korea in what analysts say is an attempt to win badlyneede­d foreign investment and aid. The rival Koreas this month held their first reunions of Korean War-divided families in more than three years.

The missiles that landed off the North’s eastern coast were believed to have a range of more than 200 kilometres.

Yonhap news agency reported the North Korean missiles were suspected to be ballistic Scud missiles or an upgraded version of its newly developed surface-to-ship KN-02 missiles.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoma­n Jen Psaki said the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation and urged North Korea to exercise restraint and take steps to improve relations with its neighbours.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the launches won’t be a prelude to provocatio­n. He said the North appears to have intended to protest the South Korean-U.S. military drills that began Monday or to grab internatio­nal attention as there has been little progress over a push to resume disarmamen­t-for-aid negotiatio­ns.

Last year, North Korea furiously reacted to the same South Korean-U.S. military drills by issuing a torrent of fiery rhetoric and threats to launch nuclear missiles against Seoul and Washington.

The Korean Peninsula officially remains at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea to deter aggression from North Korea.

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