North Korea continues to defy UN ban with more ballistic missile launches

The short-range weapons were fired into the sea off the east coast

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The Independent Online

North Korea has launched short-range missiles into the sea in its latest show of defiance against a UN ban.

The weapons, which a South Korean official believed to be ballistic Scud missiles, were launched on Wednesday from a province in western North Korea and flew about 310 miles before crashing into the ocean off the north-eastern coast.

North Korea has threatened a fourth nuclear test, also in violation of sanctions, and test-fired missiles and rockets four times in the past two weeks with no sign of slowing launches.

The UN has banned the authoritarian state from using or procuring ballistic missile technology that could be used in its nuclear or intercontinental programmes.

But the state has conducted an unusual number of tests, including launches before the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, visited South Korea in an apparent affront to its northern ally.

People in Seoul watch a news programme showing rockets previously launched by Pyongyang

The North Korean government has been angered by joint military drills carried out by South Korea with the US.

South Korea rejected the Pyongyang’s calls to stop the drills, saying the North must first take steps towards nuclear disarmament.

On the day of the latest launches, North Korea announced the death of a prominent missile expert who was sanctioned by the UN for his role in the country’s weapons programmes.

State media reported that Jon, a highly decorated general in the Korean People's Army (KPA) and senior Worker's Party of Korea (WPK) figure, died aged 88 of natural causes.

“He made a special contribution to turning the KPA into a powerful elite revolutionary army equipped with modern and defensive means and converting the DPRK into a satellite producer, launcher, and a nuclear weapons state,” official KCNA news agency said.

His death is unlikely to have any impact on the North's weapons programme as he had already retired.

A graduate of Moscow State University and a close adviser to late leader Kim Jong-Il, Jon worked for more than four decades as a senior figure in development until 2011.

He oversaw long-range ballistic missile programmes and was directly involved with North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.

A state funeral in honour of Jon in Pyongyang will be organised by Kim Jong-un himself, reports claimed.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters