Updated: 08/14/2014 15:12 | By Agence France-Presse

North Korea fires rockets as Pope arrives in South

North Korea fired five short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast Thursday, just as Pope Francis arrived in Seoul for a five-day visit.


North Korea fires rockets as Pope arrives in South

A photo released by the official Korean Central News Agency shows the army carrying out a tactical rocket firing drill, July 10, 2014

The launches began at 9:30 am (0030 GMT) at a site near the North's eastern port of Wonsan, with the rockets fired into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at a maximum range of 220 kilometres (130 miles), a defence ministry spokesman said.

Three were fired in the morning and two in the afternoon, he said.

"They are presumed to have been fired from a 300-millimetre multiple rocket launcher," he said, adding that the military had stepped up vigilance along the heavily fortified border.

The pope is expected to send a message of peace to Pyongyang when he conducts a special inter-Korean "reconciliation" mass in Seoul next week on the last day of his visit.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend the event, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at upcoming South Korea-US military drills.

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

Thursday's launches came hours after North Korea warned that if South Korea failed to cancel an upcoming military drill with the United States it would push the two sides "to the brink of war".

In a statement that offered no direct response to Seoul's recent offer of high-level talks, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles cross-border ties, issued a long list of measures the South should implement if it was "sincere" about improving relations.

The joint military drill scheduled to begin Monday "should be cancelled unconditionally", the statement said.

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

Although largely played out on computers, it involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.

North Korea has carried out an extended series of missile tests into the East Sea in recent months, despite UN resolutions barring it from any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The North has defended the tests as a legitimate exercise in self-defence and a response to the South-US war manoeuvres. 

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。