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(LEAD) N. Korea fires ballistic missile into East Sea

All Headlines 08:36 March 18, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS background from 4th para)

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea on Friday, the military said, in the latest show of force against the ongoing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

The ballistic missile flew about 800 kilometers across North Korea before falling into waters off the country's east coast.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile, which was fired around 5:55 a.m. from the western area of Sukchon, is believed to be a Rodong missile.

Military officials said the missile appears to have been launched from a transporter erector launcher, a mobile missile vehicle.

North Korea's previous launch of a mid-range Rodong missile was in March 2014.

With a maximum range of 1,300 km, the Rodong puts all of South Korea and part of Japan within striking distance.

The ballistic missile could carry high explosives or chemical ammunition in its warhead.

South Korea and the United States are set to wrap up one of two massive joint military exercises, which the countries kicked off on March 7.

In protest against the annual drills, which the North condemns as a rehearsal for invasion, the communist nation shot off two short-range missiles into the East Sea on March 10.

"North Korea is highly likely to bring inter-Korean tensions to a crisis-like level through further hardcore provocations," a military official said, adding that the military is keeping close tabs on the situation.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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