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North Korea fires 2 short-range ballistic missiles in sixth launch of year

People watch a TV news report at Seoul Station on Thursday showing North Korea's launch of two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. Photo by Yonhap
People watch a TV news report at Seoul Station on Thursday showing North Korea's launch of two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- North Korea fired a pair of projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday morning, the South Korean military said, marking the regime's sixth launch of the year amid growing international concern.

The missiles were launched from the area around Hamhung, a city on the east coast, and traveled roughly 118 miles at an altitude of 12 miles before landing in the sea between Korea and Japan, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters. The military detected the launches at 8 a.m. and 8:05 a.m.

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"The military is maintaining a readiness posture by tracking and monitoring related movements," the JCS said.

Japan's defense ministry said the missiles did not appear to reach the country's territory or the waters of its exclusive economic zone.

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"The recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea are a serious issue for the entire international community, including Japan," the ministry said in a statement.

The six rounds of launches marked the most activity by North Korea in a single month, analysts noted.

Pyongyang's flurry of weapons tests in January have included what the country claims are hypersonic missiles, train-launched ballistic missiles and tactical guided missiles. On Tuesday, Seoul said the North fired a pair of apparent cruise missiles.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also suggested last week that the country may lift its self-imposed moratorium of more than four years to resume intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

A senior White House official said during a background briefing last week that Washington was "concerned by [Kim's] statements."

"We've sent a very clear message to North Korea in an effort to dissuade them for further provocative steps," the official said.

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Washington unilaterally imposed sanctions on several North Korean individuals over the launches earlier this month and last week led a call for the U.N. Security Council to add to the sanctions. However, the proposal was blocked by Russia and China.

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