N. Korea launches missiles towards Sea of Japan - reports

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un © KCNA
North Korea has launched short-range projectiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, South Korean Yonhap News Agency reports.

The missiles flew for about 200 kilometers before landing off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement as cited by Reuters.

The South Korean military said the missiles were launched from the northeastern city of Hamhung at around 15:19 (06:19 GMT).

"Our military is keeping close tabs on the situation and standing by with a heightened defense posture," the JCS said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

This latest launch comes days after Pyongyang carried out a ballistic missile test, firing two rockets into the sea. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un said the secretive nation would carry out further ballistic and nuclear tests.

“A nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads will be conducted in a short time to further enhance the reliance of nuclear attack capability,” Kim said according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 15.

Both Russia and China have criticized North Korea saying that they do not recognize Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, and that Kim should listen to the UN Security Council’s demands to return to the negotiation table.

“We expect North Korea to make reasonable conclusions and listen to the demands of the United Nations Security Council, and return, after all, to the negotiation table within the framework of the joint declaration of the six-party participants made on September 19, 2005,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on March 11.

However, both Moscow and Beijing agree that rising tensions on the Korean peninsula should not give the US a pretext to deploy a missile shield in the region.

“We stand firmly against the deployment of the [American] THAAD missile defense system to South Korea under the pretext of the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “We believe this to be directly damaging to Russian and Chinese strategic [national] security,” he added.