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(2nd LD) N. Korea fires several ballistic missiles: Seoul military

All Headlines 09:31 March 06, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS plural number of missiles, details and background throughout)

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Monday fired several ballistic missiles into the East Sea in an apparent protest against the ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The unidentified projectiles were launched from an area near the North's Dongchang-ri long-range missile site at 7:36 a.m. and flew about 1,000 kilometers before splashing into the East Sea, JCS said in a text message.

"We are conducting an analysis on the projectiles to determine their type and other specifications. It will take a while before we come up with a final analysis (based on U.S. satellite data)," the JCS said.

It could be an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, an official at the defense ministry said.

The North test-fired a long-range ballistic missile at the Dongchang-ri or "Sohae" missile launch site in February last year.

South Korean and U.S. troops here will stay on high alert to counter any provocations by the North, the ministry said.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reportedly said three out of four missiles fired by the North fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), some 250 km west of Akita Prefecture.

The latest provocation comes a day after the U.S. said it may consider redeploying a tactical nuclear weapon to South Korea as a deterrent against growing nuclear and missile threats posed by the rogue regime.

On Friday, Pyongyang threatened to conduct more missile firings in response to the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise between Seoul and Washington, which lasts through April.

The Rodong Sinmun, the ruling party's official newspaper, said in a commentary that "new types of strategic weapons will soar" if Seoul and Washington continue their annual war drills, which the North claims to be a preparation for a war against it.

The communist state has staged a series of missile tests with increasing range, with the aim of eventually building long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

In its latest provocations, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into the East Sea on Feb. 12 to boast its military readiness and test the response from the new Donald Trump administration.

It was the first test-firing of a North Korean missile since Trump became U.S. president on Jan. 20. and the country's first major provocation in 2017.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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