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North Korea Fires 3 Missiles as G-20 Continues in China

North Korea fired three medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast Monday, landing close to Japan, in a show of force that coincided with the meeting of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies in neighboring China.

North Korea launched the missiles, believed to be Rodongs, from a site south of Pyongyang at 12:14 p.m. local time, South Korea’s military said. They flew about 600 miles and landed well inside Japan’s air defense identification zone, the area in which Tokyo controls aircraft movement.

The launches, coming as the G-20 meeting continued in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou and just days before North Korea marks the 68th anniversary of the formation of its government, constituted an “armed protest,” a South Korean military spokesman said.

“We are fully prepared to fight tonight in case North Korea makes any provocative moves,” an official from South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff added, according to the Yonhap News Agency, using the catch-phrase of the American and South Korean military allies.

Japan’s Defense Ministry added that the missiles landed between 120 and 160 miles west of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands.

At the G-20 meeting, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met immediately and agreed to cooperate against North Korea.

Monday’s launches were just the latest salvo in a steady series of missiles coming from North Korea. Last month, Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed a “great success” in launching a ballistic missile from a submarine about 300 miles towards Japan, on top of making progress on its medium-range Musudan missile technology.

This is a particularly tense time in the region because of frictions over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile battery that the United States will deploy to South Korea, part of their defense against North Korea.

Beijing has protested strongly against the plan, viewing it as part of an American effort to restrain a strengthening China, and worrying that the system will hone in on China’s military activities.

The issue has helped close the gap between China and its erstwhile client state, North Korea, after the provocations of a nuclear test and long-range missile launch earlier this year. Beijing and Pyongyang have traditionally been “as close as lips and teeth,” as they saying goes, but Xi Jinping, China’s president, has made his disdain for the young Kim clear.

 

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