Report: North Korea test-fires short-range missile

Apparent firing believed to be part of routine training exercise; launch comes as UN inspectors in country to discuss nuclear reactor shutdown.

kim jon il missile pic  (photo credit: )
kim jon il missile pic
(photo credit: )
North Korea appears to have test-fired a short-range missile Wednesday toward the waters off the Korean peninsula's east coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. The Seoul government detected and analyzed signs that the North launched the missile, which has a range of about 100 kilometers (62 miles), around 11:30 a.m. (0230 GMT), Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified government official. The report said the firing is believed to be part of a routine training exercise. South Korea's Defense Ministry and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the report. "It's not appropriate for us to confirm that," a JCS official said on customary condition of anonymity, citing office protocol. If confirmed, it would be the third time within a month that the North test-fired a short-range missile. Prior launches took place on May 25 and June 7. Last week, news reports and a South Korean intelligence official said that North Korea conducted a short-range missile launch, but the Defense Ministry later said the reported firing did not happen. The latest launch came as UN nuclear inspectors were in North Korea to discuss shutting down the North's main nuclear reactor as part of a February international disarmament deal. North Korea's missile program is a constant concern to the region, as is its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The hard-line regime test-fired a series of missiles in July last year, including its latest long-range model, known abroad as the Taepodong-2, which experts believe could reach parts of the United States. The North rattled the world again in October by conducting its first-ever test of a nuclear device. However, experts believe it does not have a bomb design advanced enough to be placed on a missile.