North Korea fires missiles as G-20 continues in China

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang in August. (Kcna/Reuters)
North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast Monday, possibly timed to coincide with the meeting of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies in neighboring China.

North Korea launched the missiles from a site south of Pyongyang at 12:14 p.m. local time, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said.

The missiles were medium-range Rodong-class and flew about 600 miles, Reuters news reported, citing South Korea’s military. At least one of the missiles fell into Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, a South Korean military official told the news agency.

This is just the latest salvo in a steady series of missiles coming from North Korea. Last month, Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed a “great success” in launching a ballistic missile from a submarine about 300 miles towards Japan, on top of making progress on its medium-range Musudan missile technology.

[ North Korea hails ‘greatest success’ of submarine-launched ballistic missile ]

This is a particularly tense time in the region because of frictions over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile battery that the United States will deploy to South Korea, part of their defense against North Korea.

Beijing has protested strongly against the plan, viewing it as part of an American effort to restrain a strengthening China, and worrying that the system will hone in on China’s military activities.

The issue has helped close the gap between China and its erstwhile client state, North Korea, after the provocations of a nuclear test and long-range missile launch earlier this year. Beijing and Pyongyang have traditionally been “as close as lips and teeth,” as they saying goes, but Xi Jinping, China’s president, has made his disdain for the young Kim clear.

[ U.S. policy on North Korea relies on China — and provokes it at the same time ]

Earlier, during the G-20 meeting being hosted by Xi in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said she hoped Seoul and Beijing would be able to unite together against North Korea.

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I “hope that through earnest communication, our two countries can turn this challenge into an opportunity to further strengthen and move forward our bilateral relationship,” Park said during a bilateral meeting with Xi, according to Yonhap.

But Xi reiterated his strong objections to Park’s decision to accept the THAAD battery onto South Korean soil.

“Mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes,” Xi told Park, according to a report from the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

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