US ‘strongly condemns’ North Korea missile launch
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US ‘strongly condemns’ North Korea missile launch

Tests of 4 ballistic missiles come as Kim Jong Un pushes for nuclear, missile program that can deter what he calls US, South Korean hostility

In this Feb. 2, 2017 file photo, a mock North Korea's Scud-B missile, center left, and South Korean missiles are displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)
In this Feb. 2, 2017 file photo, a mock North Korea's Scud-B missile, center left, and South Korean missiles are displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea — The United States condemned North Korea’s launch of four ballistic missiles on Monday, vowing that Washington was ready to “use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.”‎

“The United States strongly condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches tonight, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology,” the State Department’s acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

Toner added: “We remain prepared — and will continue to take steps to increase our readiness — to defend ourselves and our allies from attack, and are prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.”‎

North Korea on Monday fired four banned ballistic missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), with three of them landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, South Korean and Japanese officials said, in an apparent reaction to huge military drills by Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal.

In this Oct. 10, 2015 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un salutes at a parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this Oct. 10, 2015 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un salutes at a parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

It was not immediately clear the exact type of missile fired; Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various ranges in recent months, including a new intermediate-range missile in February. The ramped-up tests come as leader Kim Jong Un pushes for a nuclear and missile program that can deter what he calls US and South Korean hostility toward the North.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday’s firing shows that North Korea has become “a new kind of threat.” Japanese officials said three of the four missiles landed in the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where Tokyo has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources.

South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement that Monday’s launches were made from the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province. The area is the home of the North’s Seohae Satellite Station where it has conducted prohibited long-range rocket launches in recent years.

Seoul and Washington call their military drills on the Korean Peninsula, which remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty, defensive and routine.

The North hates the military drills, which run until late April and which analysts say force its impoverished military to respond with expensive deployments and drills of their own. An unidentified spokesman for the North’s General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said last week that Pyongyang’s reaction to the southern drills would be the toughest ever but didn’t elaborate

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year. There have been widespread worries that the North will conduct an ICBM test that, when perfected, could in theory reach US shores. Washington would consider such a capability a major threat.

The United States has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, and 50,000 in Japan, as a deterrent against a potential aggression from the North.

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