North Korea fires anti-ship missiles, says South Korea

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Ground-to-sea Styx missiles are displayed during a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on 15 April 2012Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
North Korea displayed anti-ship Styx cruise missiles in a 2012 military parade

North Korea has fired several anti-ship cruise missiles off its east coast, South Korea's military says.

Authorities said the weapons, launched on Thursday morning near the city of Wonsan, appeared to be short-range "surface-to-ship" missiles.

They flew about 200km (125 miles) before landing in the water.

Repeated ballistic missile tests by the North this year - not all successful but all a breach of UN sanctions - have sparked international alarm.

Experts fear the tests indicate progress towards Pyongyang's ultimate goal of putting a nuclear warhead on a missile.

It is unclear whether the latest firing violates the UN Security Council's resolutions against North Korea.

The resolution issued on 2 June specifically bans Pyongyang from nuclear activity and ballistic missiles, but also bans launches of "any other provocation" and "any other existing weapons of mass destruction".

South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the latest launch showed the North "likely wanted to show off its ability to precisely target a large warship" after recent military drills involving US aircraft carriers and South Korean troops.

"By testing different types of missiles, North Korea also appears to be aiming to secure the upper hand in relations with South Korea and the United States," he told reporters.

Anti-ship cruise missiles are guided missiles which generally skim the water. In 2012, North Korea displayed several such weapons known as Styx.

But North Korea has also previously unsuccessfully tested anti-ship ballistic missiles, experts believe.

On 29 May, it fired a Scud-type ballistic missile from the same location, which flew about 450km.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The US has been installing a missile defence system on a golf course in Seongju, South Korea

Last Friday the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution to impose targeted sanctions on certain North Korean officials and state entities.

The US has also ramped up its military presence in the region, conducting drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defence system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad).

But South Korea said on Wednesday it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment is completed.