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North Koreans Test Fire Missiles

North Korea test fired seven short-range missiles, two days after launching four rockets, spurring condemnations from the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

The launches took place between 8 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. today, from Kitdaeryong in Kangwon province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in statements.

“South Korea’s military is fully prepared to deal with any threats and provocations by the North, based on a strong joint defense alliance with the U.S.,” the statements added.

North Korea fired the missiles off its east cost, Yonhap news reported earlier, citing a government official. The missiles are estimated to have a range of as much as 500 kilometers (310 miles), enough for the North to strike most of South Korea, the Korean-language news agency said.

The communist nation fired four short-range missiles on July 2 in defiance of United Nations sanctions imposed after a nuclear test. North Korea has used such launches in the past to counter international condemnation of its nuclear program. The regime fired six short-range missiles in May, after its detonation of a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. is “closely monitoring” North Korea’s activities, said Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman, in a telephone interview today.

“North Korea should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on denuclearization talks and implementation of its commitments” from 2005 to abandon nuclear weapons, Duckworth said.

Japan condemned the North Korean launches, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said today in a statement.

They violate United Nations Security Council resolutions 1695 and 1718, Kawamura said in the statement. The missiles probably fell into the Sea of Japan, he said.

South Korea also condemned the firings, calling them a “provocative act.” The South Korean government expressed “deep regret” that North continues to escalate tensions in Northeast Asia, the nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site today.

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