North Korea fires two missiles, claims South Korea

North Korea fires two missiles, claims South Korea

North Korea, on Thursday, fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles off its east coast, a South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman said.

North Korea had last fired a series of short-range missiles in the week after its May 25 nuclear test.

Earlier Thursday, a South Korean newspaper reported that North Korea appeared to be preparing to launch within days a new barrage of missile tests, including short-range ballistic and ground-to-ship rockets.

The ballistic missiles were believed to be Scud-B missiles with a range of 340 km or Rodong rockets, whose 1,300-km range was likely to be shortened to 400 km for the upcoming tests, the JoongAng Ilbo said, citing an unnamed intelligence source.

It appeared that North Korea would conduct the tests from two launch sites on its east coast, the source said after North Korea had warned ships to stay clear of the area.

A new spate of rocket launches was likely to heighten tensions in the region, which have been on the rise this year because of the nuclear test, missile launches and threats from Pyongyang.

Besides the short-range missiles it launched in May, North Korea in April launched what it said was a satellite, but its neighbours and the US said it was a test for a long-range missile that potentially could hit the western US.

The international community condemned the test and launches, and in response, the UN Security Council approved a resolution last month that allows UN members to stop and board ships and aircraft suspected of carrying weapons-related material to and from North Korea. In return, North Korea said it would step up its defences.

South Korea said North Korea last month barred ships from parts off its east coast because of a military exercise. The ban is in effect until July 10. Japan said it was also informed of it.

Observers said they saw the ban as potential preparations for new missile tests.

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