North Korea has fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Monday, Yonhap news agency reports. It’s the third day in a row of such launches, despite calls from the UN to cease them.
Amid the launches, Seoul placed Israeli precision-guided missiles capable of hitting North Korean targets on its Yellow Sea border islands, Yonhap reported Sunday.
"Dozens of Spike missiles and their launchers have recently been deployed on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands," an official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. "They can destroy [North Korea's] underground facilities and can pursue and strike moving targets."
The satellite-guided Spike missile has a range of about 20km (12.4 miles) and weighs 70kg (154lbs), according to military officials.
Yeonpyeong is situated just 11km (6.8 miles) from North Korean shores.
South Korea moved to place the Israeli missiles after Seoul confirmed that North Korea on Saturday had launched three short-range guided missiles off its east coast into the Sea of Japan. Two launches were fired on Saturday morning and another one in the afternoon, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Japan confirmed the report of the launches, saying its military had detected them as well.
On Sunday North Korea launched another short-range missile.
Media reports speculated that the projectiles were likely shore-based anti-ship KN-2 Toksa missiles, North Korea’s version of the Soviet-made OTR-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missile, which Pyongyang is believed to have reverse-engineered.
"The missiles traveled about 120 km and in the North Korean arsenal, only the modified KN-02 or multiple rocket launchers of 300 mm or larger in caliber can go that far," a source in the South Korean government said.
Seoul condemned North Korea's latest short-range missile launches as "provocative."
North Korea has not commented on the launches.
While the latest test launch only involves short-range missiles, it poses security threats to the region and should be "stopped immediately,” said the Seoul ministry that is charged with cross-border affairs.
"We find it deplorable that the North does not stop provocative actions such as the launch of guided missiles yesterday," said Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok.
"We call on the North to take responsible actions for our sake and for the sake of the international community."
South Korea also urged the North to respond to its calls for talks about the future of the joint Kaesong industrial complex, which was put on ice amid the latest confrontation. Opened in 2004, it worked with the South’s investments and Northern land and labor in a rare example of cooperation between the rival states.
"It is very regrettable that the North denigrates our offer for talks... and shifts blame for the suspension of the Kaesong complex to us," Kim said.
Pyongyang banned South Korean staff from the complex and called off its workers as the US and South launched massive war drills, a move which North considered hostile. Prior to the closure some politicians in South and Korea observers said Kaesong’s continued operation showed that the North is not prepared to lose its revenues and so will not go beyond empty threats in the stand-off.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the missile launches and urged Pyongyang to return to talks on the nuclear issue in the six-party format.
"We are very concerned about North Korea's provocative actions," Ban told reporters in Moscow on the weekend. "I hope that North Korea will refrain from any further such actions.”
"It is time for them to resume dialogue and lower the tensions. The United Nations is willing to help," he added.
The UN Secretary General said hopes that Russia "will continue to use their contacts to reduce tensions and intensify the dialogue with North Korea."
He said that he had discussed this subject matter in a meeting on Friday in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the US State Department Saturday called on the North to exercise restraint, without specifically mentioning the launches.
The US stations around 28,500 troops in South Korea, a carry-over from the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The armistice was signed by the US-led UN troops, by the Chinese volunteer army which came to help the North, and by Pyongyang, but not by Seoul.
The Korean Peninsula is emerging from the latest episode of tensions, which began February 12, 2013, when Pyongyang announced it had conducted an underground nuclear test, its third in seven years.
The test was met with harsh international condemnation and a new round of sanctions by the UN Security Council.
South Korea and the US responded with large scale naval maneuvers, which Pyongyang called a provocation and threatened to use its nuclear arsenal if attacked.