In Breach of U.N. Sanctions, North Korea Fires Medium-Range Missiles

A boy runs past a replica of North Korean Scud-B missile at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on Wednesday, the same day that Pyongyang test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles.
A boy runs past a replica of North Korean Scud-B missile at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on Wednesday, the same day that Pyongyang test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea unexpectedly test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, eliciting sharp denunciations by South Korea and the United States.

The timing of the launch of the Rodong missiles was thought to be aimed at sending a message to leaders in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, who convened a trilateral summit the prior day to discuss how to deal with North Korea's continued nuclear-weapons development, the New York Times reported.

"By launching them from mobile vehicles which are difficult to monitor and allow North Korea to fire missiles from anywhere it wanted, the country appeared to show off its ability to attempt a surprise attack," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.  "This is a serious provocation against South Korea and the international community."

The Rodong is based on Soviet Scud missile designs and has a range of roughly 800 miles.  The missiles fired on Wednesday traveled 400 miles before splashing down in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. North Korea in recent days and weeks has fired off a range of rockets and short-range missiles in protest of yearly U.S.-South Korea military drills, but the Rodong launches amounted to the strongest provocation yet this year, according to the Times.

The U.N. Security Council has forbidden North Korea from using ballistic-missile technology. The last time the country launched a Rodong was in 2009. The missile theoretically is capable of being fitted with a nuclear warhead, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Whether the North has developed the ability to make warheads small enough to fit on the Rodong or any other projectile is an issue under debate by the U.S. and South Korean intelligence communities.

"Japan, some parts of China and Russia are within range of Rodong missiles," Kim said.

A senior North Korean diplomat on Monday warned his government would carry out unspecified new "nuclear measures" to demonstrate its deterrence capabilities if Washington did not alter its policy toward Pyongyang.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf condemned the test as a "provocative escalation" and said Washington was working with its partners to "take the appropriate measures in response" to the missile launch, Yonhap separately reported.

March 26, 2014
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North Korea unexpectedly test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, eliciting sharp denunciations by South Korea and the United States.

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