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N. Korean military defends missile tests

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

North Korea Wednesday defended a recent series of missile and rocket tests and hit back at "vicious" criticism of the launches by Seoul and Washington.

The tests were largely seen as a calculated display of military muscle-flexing to reflect the North's anger over ongoing South Korea-US military drills.

In a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, a Korean People's Army (KPA) spokesman said the tests -- which violated UN sanctions banning any ballistic missile test by Pyongyang -- were "ordinary military practice".

The North fired half a dozen short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast over the past week, followed by a volley of rockets from multiple launchers on Tuesday.

South Korea called the launches a "reckless provocation" while Washington urged Pyongyang to halt the tests immediately, saying they risked inflaming regional tensions.

The KPA spokesman said all the missiles and rockets -- tested at ranges of between 55 kilometres (33 miles) and 500 kilometers -- had followed their planned trajectories "without the slightest error."

Stressing that the tests did not have the "slightest impact" on regional peace or stability, the spokesman hit back at US and South Korean criticism.

"The US and its followers that harbour hostility towards our republic... are viciously attacking us from the very moment our rockets soared towards the sky," he said.

The "real provocations", he added, were the joint military drills being held in South Korea that began on February 24.

North Korea routinely condemns the annual South-US exercises as rehearsals for invasion.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140305/n-korean-military-defends-missile-tests-1