The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired a total of seven ballistic missiles on Saturday, raising international concerns over regional security.
According to South Korean Joint Forces, the seven missiles, estimated to have a range of 400-500 km, were fired off the east coast from a base near Wonsan, Gangwon Province.
The missile firing came two days after the DPRK test-fired four short-ranges off its eastern coast, which South Korean officials described as part of routine military drills.
"Although the missiles fired on Thursday appear to be part of routine military drills, the recent scud missiles seem to have political purposes as they were fired a day before the U.S. Independence Day," an unnamed South Korean official was quoted by Yonhap as saying.
Shortly after the DPRK's missile launch on Saturday, South Korea's foreign ministry expressed deep regrets over the DPRK continuing to attempt actions that elevate tensions in northeast Asia.
The ministry called the launch a "provocative action" which violates UN Security Council Resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874, which banned the DPRK from any activity related to ballistic missiles.
The UNSC resolutions were reached when the DPRK conducted its nuclear tests, first in 2006 and the latest in May this year.
"The government will closely cooperate with other related countries to deal with the latest missile firing," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement and urged the DPRK to faithfully implement the resolutions.
The Japanese government lodged a protest against the DPRK through diplomatic channels in Beijing over its launching of multiple ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Saturday, according to a report by Kyodo News.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said in a statement, "It is a serious act of provocation against the security of neighboring countries, including Japan, and is against the resolution of the U.N. Security Council."
Kyodo said Prime Minister Taro Aso is expected to urge fellow leaders at Group of Eight Summit in Italy to continue coordination in dealing with DPRK's nuclear and missile development issues.
When discussing the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula in Moscow on Saturday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin agreed that the situation in Northeast Asia had become a major concern as escalating tensions there could trigger a new arms race, threatening regional security.
They said all parties concerned should remain calm and refrain from taking any actions that might further aggravate the situation. The two countries called for a return to six-party talks.
The United States also called for the DPRK not to "aggravate tensions" hours after the latter fired another seven missiles on Saturday.
"North Korea (DPRK) should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and focus on denuclearization talks and the implementation of its commitments from the September 19, 2005 joint statement," State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth said.
The DPRK, since May, has been spotted with actions in preparation for firing a new mid-range missile, as well as scud missiles, Yonhap said.
South Korea's military authorities, however, said no sign has been observed from either DPRK's eastern Musudan-ri base or the new western Tongchang-ri base, and then concluded that an intercontinental ballistic missile launch was imminent.
In April, the DPRK threatened to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile in protest of the UN Security Council's presidential statement which "condemned" the DPRK's earlier long-range rocket launch.
(Xinhua News Agency July 5, 2009)