North Korea fires unidentified projectile into the sea in suspected missile test

N. Korea Fires Projectiles into East Sea

North Korea launched three ballistic missiles, United States military officials said, dampening President Donald Trump's optimism to strike a deal with Pyongyang to contain its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons programme.

US Pacific Command, in its initial assessment of the launch on Saturday, said North Korea's first and third missiles failed in flight.

South Korea's defence ministry said "unidentified projectiles", fired at 6:49 am (2149 GMT Friday), flew some 250 kilometres (155 miles) towards the Sea of Japan.

The latest missile launch marked the 13th of its kind since the beginning of the year and the eighth since the new South Korean leader took office May 10.

Shells hit islands standing in for South Korea's Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands while special forces landed in rubber boats or parachuted in and "wiped out the desperate enemy with various combat methods", the Korean Central News Agency said.

"Our military is closely monitoring for North Korean additional provocation and strengthened surveillance and security postures and maintaining readiness postures", the South Korean release said.

But the USA president this week indicated a deal could be struck with North Korea to contain its nuclear weapons programme.

The reclusive regime had previously fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July, prompting global condemnation. That would put parts of the US mainland within reach and prompted heated exchanges that raised fears of a new conflict on the peninsula.

Japan's NHK broadcast said the projectiles did not appear to be objects that could threaten Japan's safety.

South Korea and USA armed forces are conducing their annual joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), in Korea.

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It has fired more than 20 missiles since February, further perfecting its technology with each launch.

Experts believe the missiles fired were Scud-type ballistic missiles with a range of 300km or newly developed longer-range ones.

North Korean state-run media said the country's military could strike the USA at any time and that neither Guam, Hawaii nor the U.S. mainland could avoid the "merciless strike".

The U.S. Pacific Command says its assessments indicate that the three missiles failed.

Washington has repeatedly urged China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Saturday that Trump was aware of the launches.

The U.S. delegation included four other representatives. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this week credited the North with showing restraint by not launching a missile since the July ICBM test.

"I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us", Trump said at a campaign rally earlier this week.

South Korea and the United States call the exercises defensive in nature, but North Korea sees them as provocative and hostile, perhaps even preparation for an invasion.

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