NK-missile launch

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to be winding up a series of shore-to-sea weapons tests as a four-day sailing ban it had imposed on the sea off its east coast was coming to an end on Tuesday, a South Korean government source said.

North Korea last week declared a portion of the sea off the Korean Peninsula's east coast off limits to ships from May 18-21, during which it test-fired a total of six short-range "projectiles" believed to be missiles or rockets.

Seoul officials said the North's short-range "projectiles" were launched into waters in a northeasterly direction, away from South Korea. They estimated the range of the projectiles to be up to 150 kilometers.

"Now some vessels are sailing through the area (designated in the sailing ban) and given that, the country seems to have winded up short-range projectile launches," the source said.

The source said the four projectiles fired over the weekend traveled about 120 kilometers, while those fired on Monday flew as far as 150km. The last two projectiles could possibly be fired from 300-millimeter-caliber multiple rocket launchers, which the North is reportedly developing.

The South Korean government is studying whether the projectiles fired by the North included large-caliber rockets with a longer range that can reach beyond Seoul. The South Korean capital is less than 50 kilometers from the border.

"South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are now analyzing it," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Kim reiterated the government's stance that the recent launching activities by the North is "an element of threats to the stability of the Korean Peninsula."

The North has recently toned down its bellicose rhetoric, Kim said, adding that the South had detected no new North Korean response to to the U.S.' plan to test-fire its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.

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