North Korea launches missiles, flouting UN ban ahead of international talks

The country has a tendency to begin military exercises in response to international developments

North Korea flouted a UN ban to fire two missiles into the sea on Sunday, the South Korean military said. The move comes as talks with South Korea and China reach important stages this week.

The Chinese president Xi Jinping, the North’s only major ally, is visiting South Korea in the coming week, during which he is expected to discuss the North’s nuclear policy with South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye.

North Korea will also meet with government officials from around the region to discuss a re-opening of an investigation into Japanese citizens that were kidnapped by North Koreans during the cold war. Japanese ministers have criticised the launch of the North Korean rockets, but is still expected to take part in the talks.

The missiles were fired on Sunday morning and have a range of around 500km.

It fired four similar Scud missiles into the sea in early March, as South Korean and US navies began conducting annual exercises that are opposed by North Korea. The country has a tendency to conduct such military exercises when international activity around the country picks up.

The UN has banned the firing of such missiles as part of sanctions on North Korea. South Korea also said that the country had failed to designate no-sail zones before firing them.

Video: Kim Jong-un guides test launch of ballistic rockets

North Korean state news had been celebrating the country’s new missiles last week, and said that Kim Jong UN had guided the test-firing of some of the missiles.

Because the Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953 rather than a peace treaty, the Korean Peninsula that divides the two countries is technically still at war. Tensions between the two countries have been high since, and despite encouraging talks at the beginning of the year military movements have been becoming more regular.