North Korea on Monday fired three medium-range missiles that traveled about 620 miles and landed near Japan in an apparent show of force timed to coincide with the Group of 20 economic summit in China, South Korean officials said. North Korea has staged a series of recent missile tests with increasing range, part of a program that aims to eventually build long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the US mainland. Such tests are fairly common when international attention is turned to Northeast Asia, and this one came as world leaders gathered in eastern China for the G-20 summit, reports the AP. China is North Korea's only major ally, but ties between the neighbors have frayed amid a string of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and what many outsiders see as other provocations in recent years.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the three ballistic missiles, all believed to be Rodongs, were launched from the western North Korean town of Hwangju and flew across the country before splashing into the sea. A Joint Chiefs of Staff statement described the launches as an "armed protest" meant to demonstrate North Korea's military capability on the occasion of the G-20 summit and days before the North Korean government's 68th anniversary. All three missiles Monday fell in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where a nation has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the launches a "serious threat" to Japanese security and said that Tokyo protested to North Korea via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. The United States also condemned the launches, saying it was discussing with allies the proper response and plans to raise concerns at the UN. (Read more North Korea stories.)