Friday, July 3, 2009

N.Korea fires 4th missile

The missiles were launched from a base near the eastern port of Wonsan. --PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - NORTH Korea late on Thursday test-fired a fourth short-range missile off its east coast following three similar launches earlier in the evening, South Korean military officials said.

The defence ministry officials, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said the missiles - apparently surface-to-ship ones - were fired into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) between 5.20pm (4.20am Singapore time) and 9.20pm.

All were fired from a base at Sinsang-ri near the coastal city of Wonsan, a spokesman was quoted as saying.

Other officials told the agency on condition of anonymity that the missiles landed about 100 kilometres (60 miles) off the coast, where the North has imposed a maritime ban until July 11 for a military drill.

Japan's Coast Guard, which reported the ban, has said it covers the hours from 8am to 8pm, meaning the fourth firing appeared to be outside the exclusion period.

Spokesmen confirmed the first three firings to AFP but could not be reached for comment on the fourth.

The hardline communist state has responded defiantly to UN condemnation of its long-range rocket launch on April 5 and its May 25 nuclear test, vowing to bolster its defences.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, quoting an intelligence source, said the North in the coming days was likely to fire a series of short-range missiles.

Apart from ground-to-ship weapons with a range of 140 kilometres, it said these would likely include Scud-B missiles with a range of 340 kilometres.

The North may also fire Rodongs, whose 1,300-km range would likely be shortened to some 400 km for the current round of testing, the paper predicted. -- AFP

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