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North Korea tests short-range missiles

world Updated: Mar 28, 2008 22:57 IST

North Korea test-fired a barrage of short-range missiles on Friday, the communist nation’s latest apparent angry response to the new South Korean government’s tougher stance on Pyongyang.

The launches came as the North issued a stern rebuke to Washington over an impasse at nuclear disarmament talks, warning that the US attitude could “gravely” affect the continuing disablement of Pyongyang’s atomic facilities.

"The missile tests were part of routine training," South Korean presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said, declining to give further details on the type of rockets fired. He told reporters Seoul was “closely monitoring the situation”. “I believe North Korea would also not want a strain in inter-Korean relations,” Lee said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that North Korea launched three ship-to-ship missiles at around 10.30am, citing unidentified government officials.

South Korea’s defence ministry said that it would not be commenting on the launches, which came a day after Seoul withdrew officials from a joint industrial zone with North Korea at Pyongyang’s request. That move was prompted by the North’s anger over South Korean statements that any expansion of the project in the border city of Kaesong would only happen if the North resolved the international standoff over its nuclear weapons.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative who took office last month, had said that he would take a harder policy line on the North — a change from a decade of liberal Seoul governments who avoided confrontation to maintain a “sunshine policy” of engagement.

South Korea also voted on Thursday in favour of a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council that condemned human rights abuses in North Korea. The North rejects such allegations and argues they are part of US-led efforts to overthrow the regime.