By Saeromi Shin
July 4 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea test fired seven short- range missiles, two days after launching four rockets, spurring condemnations from the U.S., South Korea and Japan.
The launches took place between 8 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. today, from Kitdaeryong in Kangwon province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in statements.
“South Korea’s military is fully prepared to deal with any threats and provocations by the North, based on a strong joint defense alliance with the U.S.,” the statements added.
North Korea fired the missiles off its east cost, Yonhap news reported earlier, citing a government official. The missiles are estimated to have a range of as much as 500 kilometers (310 miles), enough for the North to strike most of South Korea, the Korean-language news agency said.
The communist nation fired four short-range missiles on July 2 in defiance of United Nations sanctions imposed after a nuclear test. North Korea has used such launches in the past to counter international condemnation of its nuclear program. The regime fired six short-range missiles in May, after its detonation of a nuclear bomb.
The UN Security Council approved measures on June 12 to curb financial transactions with North Korea and to prevent the country from proliferating weapons of mass destruction after it conducted the nuclear test on May 25. The atomic detonation followed the North’s launch in April of a ballistic missile technically capable of reaching Alaska.
U.S. South Korea, Japan
The U.S. is “closely monitoring” North Korea’s activities, said Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman, in a telephone interview today.
“North Korea should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on denuclearization talks and implementation of its commitments” from 2005 to abandon nuclear weapons, Duckworth said.
Japan condemned the North Korean launches, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said today in a faxed statement.
They violate United Nations Security Council resolutions 1695 and 1718, Kawamura said in the statement. The missiles probably fell into the Sea of Japan, he said.
South Korea also condemned the firings, calling them a “provocative act.” The South Korean government expressed “deep regret” that North continues to escalate tensions in Northeast Asia, the nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site today.
Warning of Retaliation
The UN resolutions authorize inspections of air or sea cargo suspected of containing material usable in the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. The U.S. Navy has been tracking a North Korean ship that it suspects may be carrying illicit weapons technology.
North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, has repeatedly warned that any move to seize its ships would be met with military retaliation.
North Korea walked out of international talks to dismantle its nuclear program, kicked UN inspectors out of the country and declared it will continue to develop its nuclear arms, including starting a program for highly enriched uranium.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan said in a July 2 interview that the government “doesn’t take these short-range missiles as seriously as it would a mid-range missile or a long- range missile.”
The U.S. doesn’t see any indication North Korea is poised to test a long-range ballistic missile capable of landing near the Hawaiian Islands, according to four government officials.
To contact the reporter on this story: Saeromi Shin in Seoul at email@example.com