SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday test-fired what appeared to be two mid-range ballistic missiles, South Korea said, hours after Pyongyang rivals South Korea, Japan and the United States met in the Netherlands to discuss the country.
Such a launch would be a violation of U.N. resolutions and a big step up from a series of shorter-range rocket launches the North has staged in recent weeks in apparent protest of ongoing annual military drills by Washington and Seoul that the North claims are invasion preparation.
It also comes on the fourth anniversary of the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul and other nations blame on a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang denies involvement in the sinking, which killed 46 sailors.
A South Korean military official said two likely Rodong missiles flew about 650 kilometers (403 miles) off North Korea's east coast early Wednesday. It wasn't immediately clear where the missiles splashed down. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.
The launch followed a meeting on Tuesday of U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. It was Park and Abe's first face-to-face meeting since they both took office more than a year ago. Many in Asia are angry over Japan's treatment of historical issues related to Tokyo's 20th century colonization of the Korean Peninsula and World War II.
Addressing the media before the meeting, the leaders focused on the security threat posed by North Korea.
Since pulling out of six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear program in exchange for financial assistance in 2009, North Korea has conducted long-range rocket and nuclear tests.
A North Korean diplomat on Monday criticized the U.S. for conducting military exercises near its borders and accused the U.S. of undermining prospects for undermining the prospect of improved relations with South Korea.
Last year, North Korea responded to the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills by threatening nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul. Analysts say the impoverished North chafes against the drills because it has to spend precious resources responding with its own exercises.
The Korean Peninsula remains officially at war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.