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North Korea missile launches came days after China meeting

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea missile launches came days after China meeting
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi may have met with a North Korea diplomatic delegation in late February. The meeting did not prevent the latest round of missile tests. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- North Korea's launch of four ballistic missiles on Monday into the Sea of Japan is a slap in China's face, according to government sources in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had met with Pyongyang's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Gil Song on Feb. 28, days before the tests in Beijing, Yonhap reported Monday.

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The meeting marks the first time a North Korea delegation was dispatched to China since May 2016, when Ri Su Yong, vice chairman of the central committee of the Korean Workers' Party, met with Chinese officials.

North Korea may have requested aid during the meeting, but there is a likelihood Beijing may have asked Pyongyang to lower provocations, citing a joint U.S.-South Korea decision to deploy THAAD.

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China has been strongly opposed to the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system, because THAAD's powerful radar could monitor the Chinese military from its location in South Korea.

When officials from both sides met, it is unlikely the North Koreans informed Wang in advance of plans for missile launches, a Beijing diplomatic source told Yonhap.

"Wang met with Ri to stress 'blood' ties, but the missile launches today are throwing cold water on China's intentions," the source said.

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Only two days after Ri returned to North Korea, Pyongyang test-fired four ballistic missiles early Monday.

China's foreign ministry told reporters during a regular press briefing the government condemns North Korea for violating United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions, and that Beijing is "closely monitoring trends," according to South Korean news service Newsis.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said U.N. resolutions explicitly ban North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology.

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The four missiles that were fired early Monday from Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, flew a range of distances between 160 and 620 miles.

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