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North Korea fires missiles into Sea of Japan

Photo: AFP

North Korea test-fired two medium-range missiles on Wednesday as US President Barack Obama hosted talks with Japan and South Korea, pledging "unwavering commitment" to Tokyo and Seoul in the face of Pyongyang's nuclear threat.

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A US State Department statement said officials were closely coordinating with allies and partners, including in the UN Security Council, "to take the appropriate measures in response" to the test, which it said was a violation of UNSC resolutions and represented "a troubling and provocative escalation".

South Korea's defence ministry said both ballistic missiles flew 650 kilometres (400 miles) into the Sea of Japan, upping the ante after a series of shorter-range launches by Pyongyang in recent weeks.

Defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said the speed and range suggested they were Rodong-class missiles with a maximum range of between 1,000-1,500 kilometres.

"This missile is capable of hitting not only most of Japan but also Russia and China. So it is a fairly dangerous missile," Kim said, adding that the missiles appeared to have been fired from mobile launchers near the capital.

'Attention seeking'

UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting any ballistic missile tests.

North Korea last tested a Rodong missile, also known as Nodong, in July 2009, following UN condemnation of its second nuclear test in May of the same year.

Kim said the tests were clearly timed to coincide with the summit in The Hague between Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

"The North is boasting its military capability to grab the attention of the international community," Kim said.

Japanese media quoted a foreign ministry official saying on Tuesday that despite the tests, upcoming talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes would go ahead.

Separately, Japanese media reported that Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliamentary committee that the Japanese government had protested against the missile launches through its embassy in Beijing.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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