North Korea fired several short-range guided missiles into
the sea off its east coast on Friday in an apparent test launch,
South Korea officials and media reports said.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the launches, but
said it was still investigating how many missiles were fired. The
launches were apparently part of annual exercises conducted by
North Korea, the Joint Chiefs said in a statement.
"The short-range missile launches are believed to be part of a
routine exercise that North Korea has conducted annually on the
east and the west coasts in the past," the statement said.
The missiles were fired from the country's east coast into the
sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, a Joint Chiefs official
said on condition of anonymity, citing official protocol.
Japan's public broadcaster and other media, citing Japanese and
US sources, reported the missiles were surface-to-ship. Japan's
Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry could not immediately confirm
the reports, but were investigating.
Analysts and media reports said North Korea's test was in
response to South Korea's launch of its first destroyer equipped
with high-tech Aegis radar technology on Friday. South Korea is now
one of only five countries armed with the technology, which will
greatly enhance the South's ability to locate, track and shoot down
aircraft and missiles from other countries.
"North Korea fired them as a warning as a response to South
Korea's deployment of Aegis-equipped destroyer," said Toshimitsu
Shigemura, an expert on North Korean issues at Japan's Waseda
University. "This shows North Korea, whose navy is rather small, is
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the tests "extremely
regrettable" but said, "We do not consider (the missile firing) as
a serious threat to Japan's national security."
Public broadcaster NHK said the missiles were shorter-range, and
were not North Korea's existing Rodong or Taepodong I ballistic
(China Daily via agencies May 26, 2007)