North Korea Fires Missiles Into Sea

North Korea Fires Missiles Into Sea

North Korea’s firing of missiles was apparent protest at the start of military drills involving U.S. troops in South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a museum in Sosong, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, Feb. 28, 2015. Under the rule of Mr. Kim, the country’s rocket launches have become more frequent. PHOTO:REUTERS

By JEYUP S. KWAAK

March 1, 2015 7:13 p.m. ET 1 COMMENTS

SEOUL-North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea early Monday, an apparent protest at the start of major military drills involving U.S. troops in South Korea.

North Korea fired two suspected Scud ballistic missiles between 6:32 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. They flew east from Nampho, a port south of Pyongyang, and landed in the sea about 490 kilometers (304 miles) away, the ministry said.

The missiles were fired as hundreds of thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops kicked off annual exercises in South Korea. The drills bring routine protests from North Korea through its state media and with displays of military muscle. The drills will wrap up April 24.

In a statement released shortly before the launch, North Korea called the U.S.-South Korean exercises “nothing but a smokescreen to cover up their surprise invasion” and vowed “merciless strikes” to counter “aggression.”

Washington and Seoul say their joint drills are to ensure they are ready to counter any North Korean attack.

Pyongyang’s Monday missile firings come about three weeks after the last known launch, which involved five missiles that flew about 200 kilometers (124 miles) into the sea.

Under the rule of Kim Jong Un from late 2011, North Korea’s rocket launches have become more frequent. Last year, Pyongyang fired more than 100 missiles of various types.

United Nations resolutions ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles.

Write to Jeyup S. Kwaak at jeyup.kwaak@wsj.com

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