(3rd LD) N. Korea fires 3 short-range ballistic missiles into East Sea: S. Korean military
(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. military's statement, more details in paras 6-8, 13)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Saturday, Seoul's military said, a day after South Korea conducted a test flight of a homegrown solid-propellant space rocket.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launches from Chunghwa County, just south of Pyongyang, from 8 a.m. and that the missiles traveled some 350 km before splashing into the sea.
It did not provide other details, saying the intelligence authorities of the South and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis on the missiles' specifics.
The JCS denounced the launches as an act of "significant provocation" that harms peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in the international community, and a "clear" breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"We strongly condemn them and call for an immediate stop," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters. "Our military will maintain a solid readiness posture based on capabilities to respond overwhelmingly to any North Korean provocations."
The North appears to have fired the missiles toward a preset target on Alseom, an uninhabited island off the North's east coast, according to an informed source.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that while the launches do not pose an immediate threat to the U.S. or its allies, they highlight the "destabilizing" impact of the North's "unlawful" weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
"The U.S. commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad," it said in a statement on its website.
On Friday, South Korea successfully conducted the test of the space launch vehicle as part of efforts to strengthen its space-based reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, according to the defense ministry.
Saturday's missile launch came as Pyongyang is expected to announce its policy goals for 2023 following this week's Central Committee plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party.
The saber-rattling added to tensions caused by North Korean drone infiltrations on Monday.
The North previously fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Dec. 23, less than a week after its launch of two medium-range ones.
The North launched around 70 ballistic missiles this year alone, marking a single-year record.
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