US plays down North Korea missile launches

The United States played down North Korean missile launches Friday, calling them a routine exercise. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the United States sees the several short-range guided missiles the North lobbed into the sea that separates it from Japan "as a routine exercise that they do from time to time." US officials, eager to make progress on a nuclear disarmament accord with the North that has been stalled over a financial dispute, have been hesitant to criticize Pyongyang. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the tests "extremely regrettable" but said his country does not consider them a serious threat to national security.