SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles Wednesday morning into the sea off its east coast, a South Korean defense official said, in a continuation of a recent series of missile and rocket test launches.
The missiles, presumed to Scud-series missiles, were fired from the southwest Hwanghae province and flew across the country before landing in the ocean, the official said requesting anonymity citing department rules. The missiles have a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), he said.
North Korea has conducted an unusually large number of test-firings of missiles, artillery and rockets since earlier this year. South Korean officials have confirmed about 90 such firings by North Korea since Feb. 21 and 10 of them have been ballistic launches, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.
The North's recent launches come as the country is stepping up its demand that South Korea accept a set of proposals that it said would reduce bilateral tensions, including the cancellation of regular military drills between Seoul and Washington. South Korea has rejected the North's proposals, saying it must first demonstrate that it is serious about nuclear disarmament if it truly wants peace.
North's missile and rocket launches are also seen a message to its neighbors and Washington not to interfere in its buildup of nuclear bombs and other defense capabilities. The country also test-launched missiles and rockets ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Seoul in what analysts say was an apparent protest against Xi becoming Beijing's first leader to come to the South before the North.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the launches provocative, and said North Korea had again apparently failed to provide prior notification to ships and aircraft in the vicinity, despite international provisions to do so.
The two Koreas remain divided along the world's most heavily fortified border. The Korean Peninsula officially remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.