North Korea fires three ballistic missiles in new show of force

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles on Tuesday which flew between 500 and 600 km (300-360 miles) into the sea off its east coast, South Korea's military said, the latest in a series of provocative moves by the isolated country. The U.S. military said it detected launches of what it believed were two Scud missiles and one Rodong, a home-grown missile based on Soviet-era Scud technology.

North Korea has fired both types numerous times in recent years, an indication that unlike recent launches that were seen as efforts by the North to improve its missile capability, Tuesday's were meant as a show of force.

"This smells political rather than technical to me," said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.

"I think the number and distance of the missiles lets them remind the ROK (Republic of Korea) of what they are up against," she said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South's main ally, the United States.

The launches came nearly a week after South Korea and the United States chose a site in the South to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system to counter threats from the North, which had prompted Pyongyang to threaten a "physical response".

"Our assessment is that it was done as a show of force," a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said at a briefing.

The missiles were launched from an area in the North's western region called Hwangju between 5:45 a.m. South Korea time (04:45 p.m. EDT Monday) and 6:40 a.m., the South's military said, an indication that the North was confident they would not crash on its own territory.

Source: FOCUS Information Agency

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