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North Korea fires short-range missiles

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    Agence France-Presse

Seoul, South Korea   /   Sat, August 26, 2017   /   09:53 am
North Korea fires short-range missiles This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 28 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (center, in white shirt) watching the test of a new anti-aircraft guided weapon system organized by the Academy of National Defence Science at an undisclosed location. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has overseen a test of a new anti-aircraft weapon system, state media said on May 28, amid mounting tensions in the region following a series of missile tests by Pyongyang. (STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP/File)

North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles Saturday, the US military said, following weeks of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

The missile launches come as tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops take part in joint military drills in the South, which Pyongyang views as a highly provocative rehearsal for an invasion of its own territory.

Two of the missiles failed in flight and the third blew up "almost immediately", said a spokesman for US Pacific Command.

None of the missiles, which were launched near Kittaeryong, had posed a threat to either North America or the US Pacific territory of Guam, the spokesman said.

"The first and third missiles... failed in flight. The second missile launch... appears to have blown up almost immediately," said the spokesman, Commander Dave Benham, adding that the launches happened over a span of 30 minutes.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said US President Donald Trump was aware of the launches.

"In regards to activity in North Korea tonight, the president has been briefed and we are monitoring the situation," she said.

The launches came as North Korea state media reported that leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw a military exercise simulating a special forces assault on South Korean border islands involving aircraft, "multiple-missile launchers" and howitzers.

Shells hit islands standing in for South Korea's Paekryong and Taeyonphyong islands while special forces landed in rubber boats or parachuted in and "wiped out the desperate enemy with various combat methods," the Korean Central News Agency said.

"Kim Jong-Un expressed great satisfaction over the successful target-striking contest," it said.

South Korea's defence ministry said "unidentified projectiles", fired at 6:49 am (2149 GMT Friday), flew some 250 kilometres (155 miles) towards the Sea of Japan.

The North's move was immediately reported to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"The military is keeping a tight surveillance over the North to cope with further provocations", the ministry added.