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North Korea Fires 3 Missiles Into Sea During Final Day Of G-20 Summit

As world leaders were gathered in China for the G-20 summit, North Korea launched three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, NPR's Elise Hu reports.

The launch — the latest in a series of North Korean missile tests that violate U.N. Security Council resolutions — came on the final day of the summit. U.S. Strategic Command tracked the launch, and a spokesman says the missiles began by the western city of Hwangju and passed over North Korea before traveling off the country's eastern coast and into the sea of Japan.

"South Korea, Japan and the U.S., whose leaders are all in China at the G-20 meeting, immediately condemned the latest test by North Korea," Elise says. "A senior White House official said the 'reckless launches pose threats to civil aviation and maritime commerce in the east Asia region.' "

North Korea's continued nuclear program has prompted the international community to impose a series of sanctions on the country — but the nation "remains defiant," Elise says.

The Associated Press has more on the missile tests, in which the three suspected medium-range missiles flew about 620 miles:

"A [South Korea] Joint Chiefs of Staff statement described the launches as an 'armed protest' meant to demonstrate North Korea's military capability on the occasion of the G-20 summit and days before the North Korean government's 68th anniversary.

"In early August, another Rodong missile fired by North Korea also traveled about 620 miles, the longest-ever flight distance by that missile.

"Japan's Kyodo news agency said all three missiles Monday fell in Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, which the Koreas call the East Sea."

"Japan's Foreign Ministry says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approached South Korean President Park Gewn-hye during a coffee break at the G-20 and agreed to cooperate closely."

This latest provocation from North Korea comes two months after the U.S. and South Korea announced plans for an advanced missile defense system — the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD — to protect South Korea against an attack from the North.

The AP notes that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been attempting to persuade Park to abandon the plan — China sees it as a U.S. spying effort. But, the wire service writes, "the latest firing won't help" Xi's efforts.

The American defense system is expected to be deployed sometime next year, Elise reports.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.