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North Korean missile launches provoke protest

South Korea, Japan and the US have condemned the test-firing of two medium range missiles by North Korea. Pyongyang, which has test-fired numerous shorter range weapons recently, says it is involved in routine exercises.

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N. Korean missile tests 'troubling'

North Korea fired the two mid-range ballistic objects from its eastern coast early on Wednesday, with the missiles headed in the direction of Japan.

A South Korean official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the missiles had been launched at 2.35 a.m. local time (1735 UTC), the other at 2.45 a.m.

He said they had flown about 650 kilometers (400 miles) off the coast. It remained unclear exactly where the test missiles had splashed down.

China and Russia in range

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said, from the speed and range of the rockets, it was believed they were Rodong class missiles possessing a range of between 1,000 and 1,500 kilometers.

"This missile is capable of hitting not only most of Japan but also Russia and China," Kim said. "The North is boasting its military capability to grab the attention of the international community," Kim added. The South and the US were, Kim said, considering taking the matter to the United Nations.

Washington condemned the tests as "troubling and provocative," while Tokyo said a protest had been lodged with Pyongyang.

Regular short-range testing

The launch follows a series of

short-range launches

of Scud missiles and rockets, believed to have been conducted in response to joint military drills being conducted by the South and the US.

The North's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, So Se Pyongm, on Tuesday said the country was conducting routine military exercises.

There was no immediate comment on the launch from North Korean state media about the latest launch.

The North is estimated to have an arsenal of some 300 Rodong missiles. The weapons theoretically could, if the country’s scientists were able to miniaturize a warhead sufficiently, be used to deliver a nuclear charge.

rc/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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