North Korea fires 4 ballistic missiles into sea near Japan



North Korea fired four ballistic missiles early on Monday, three of which landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, the latest in a series of provocative tests by the reclusive state.

"Multiple ballistic missiles" were launched from the Tongchang-ri region near the North's border with China and flew about 1,000 km (620 miles), South Korean military officials said, without providing the number of missiles.

"South Korea and the United States are conducting a close-up analysis, regarding further information," South Korea's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn convened a national security meeting, South Korea's presidential office said in a text message.

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A demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A passenger watches a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force is pictured in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
A test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
FILE PHOTO - An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 24, 2016. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Japanese officials described the launches as a grave threat and said they lodged "strong protests" with nuclear-armed North Korea.

"The launches are clearly in violation of Security Council resolutions. It is an extremely dangerous action," Abe said during lawmaker questions in parliament.

No reports of damage to shipping or aircraft had been received since the launches, Japanese officials said.

The U.S. military did not immediately comment. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States also detected apparent launch activity in North Korea but declined to offer details.

North Korea had threatened to take "strong retaliatory measures" after South Korea and the United States began annual joint military drills on Wednesday that test their defensive readiness against possible aggression from the North.

North Korea criticizes the annual drills calling them preparation for war against it.

Last year, North Korea fired a long-range rocket from Tongchang-ri that put an object into orbit. The launch was condemned by the United Nations for violating resolutions that ban the use of missile technology.

"Not only Pukguksong-2 but newer independent strategic weapons will fly high vigorously in the sky off the ground as long as the United States and the puppet regime are going ahead with their nuclear threat to us and an exercise for invasion war against the North," North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party said in a commentary last week.

Last month's test was the first since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected.

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