BEIJING -- North Korea fired three short-range missiles off its east coast Saturday, following through on months of threats to conduct a missile launch.
The South Korean Defense Ministry reported that it detected two launches in the morning and another in the afternoon. Its initial assessment was that the missiles were short-range surface-to-ship or surface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 72 miles, and not the new medium-range Musudan missile that analysts feared could threaten U.S. troops in Okinawa or Guam.
“All missiles launched fell into the sea,” a Defense Ministry official was quoted telling the country’s official Yonhap news service. He also speculated that the launches were part of a military exercise.
North Korea had been threatening for months to test-fire the Musudan missile, which it had installed on a launcher on the east coast. But the missile -- as yet untested -- was taken away earlier this month without explanation.
The shorter-range missiles might have been a face-saving move by Pyongyang, under intense international scrutiny over its next move. The regime had been threatening for months to take some provocative action in retaliation for U.N. sanctions imposed after its February nuclear test.
Short-range missile tests are quite common by the North Korean regime, the last one having taken place just about two months ago.