North Korea on Thursday launched what appeared to be tactical ballistic missiles into the sea, an unidentified South Korean Defense Ministry official said.
The suspected missile drill by Pyongyang took place a few days after the United States and South Korea began their yearly joint military exercises, which are seen as one of the allies' biggest deterrence-messaging tools to the North, the Associated Press reported. North Korea traditionally condemns the maneuvers and sometimes carries out timed provocations, such as last year's deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles to its eastern coast.
"Our military is prepared to counter any provocations" from North Korea, South Korean defense chief Kim Kwan-jin was quoted as telling a gathering of retired senior officers on Wednesday, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, unidentified U.S. officials told the Washington Times this week that the space rocket North Korea successfully launched in December 2012 incorporated American, Chinese and European technology. Debris from the Unha 3 rocket was recovered from the Sea of Japan and analyzed by South Korean and U.S. specialists.
The experts discovered the detritus included U.K transmitters, Swiss-produced electrical components and American circuits, as well as technology produced in China and Eastern Europe. The dual-use components were built within the last few years, suggesting they were secretly imported by Pyongyang in spite of a multilayered U.N. Security Council sanctions regime targeting its ballistic-missile program.
Much of the technology used to send rockets into space is relevant for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. North Korea claims its space-rocket launches are peaceful. The Security Council tightened sanctions against the North as punishment for the December 2012 launch.