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Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 10:43

DPRK fires ballistic missile into its eastern waters

By Associated Press

DPRK fires ballistic missile into its eastern waters
This screen grab taken from DPRK's broadcaster KCTV on March 7, 2017 shows ballistic missiles being launced during a military drill from an undisclosed location in DPRK. (Handout / KCTV / AFP)

SEOUL — Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired a ballistic missile into the waters off its east coast on Wednesday, US and Republic of Korean (ROK) officials said, amid worries that DPRK might soon conduct banned nuclear or long-range rocket tests.

The firing was also made as the DPRK expressed anger over annual military drills between the United States and ROK that DPRK sees as an invasion rehearsal.

That is a much shorter distance than other DPRK's missiles flew in their recent test-launches

The missile flew about 60 km from its launch site at Sinpo, a port city on DPRK's east coast, the Republic of Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Sinpo is home to a DPRK submarine base.

"The launch took place possibly in consideration of the U.S.-China summit, while at the same time it was to check its missile capability," an ROK official told Reuters about the military's initial assessment of the launch.

The launch drew swift condemnation from Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying further provocative action was possible.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the launch as "extremely problematic" and said Tokyo had lodged a strong protest.

ROK's foreign ministry also condemned the launch as a blunt challenge to a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions targeting DPRK's nuclear and missile programme. Seoul called a National Security Council meeting and vowed to respond strongly in case of further provocations.

"The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a terse statement.

DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.

The US Pacific Command said it detected and tracked what it assessed as DPRK missile launched from land near the eastern city of Sinpo. A US statement said initial assessments indicate the type of missile was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile. ROK's Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a similar assessment, saying the missile flew about 60 kilometers

That is a much shorter distance than other DPRK's missiles flew in their recent test-launches.

Two weeks ago, the ROK and US militaries said they had detected a failed DPRK ballistic missile launch . ROK media speculated at the time that DPRK might have attempted to test a missile that it hasn't deployed. Earlier in March, DPRK fired four ballistic missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), with three of them landing in waters that Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone.

DPRK's latest launch came as outside satellite imagery show possible preparations for a new nuclear test at the country's main nuclear test site, such as communication cables used to initiate a test and collect data being already laid. DPRK's state media has also said the world will soon witness what it calls "eventful successes" the country achieves in the space development. Washington, Seoul and others call the DPRK's space program a cover for its long-range missile development program.

DPRK is pushing hard to upgrade its weapons systems to cope with what it calls US hostility. Many weapons experts say the DPRK could have a functioning nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental US within a few years. DPRK carried out two nuclear tests last year.

DPRK also often responds to US-ROK military drills with its own military training and harsh rhetoric. The allies say the drills set to run until the end of this month are defensive in nature.

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