N Korea fires two more missiles into the sea

SEOUL - North Korea on Wednesday fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles into the sea in the latest in a series of launches interspersed with spurned peace overtures to South Korea.

A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said the two missiles were fired from the western province of Hwanghae into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

"We suspect they were short-range ballistic missiles," spokesman Um Hoy-Sik told AFP, adding that the range was around 500 kilometres (310 miles).

It was the fourth missile test in less than two weeks.

The previous launches had preceded a state trip to South Korea by Chinese President Xi Jinping and had been read by some analysts as a show of pique at his decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang.

China is North Korea's sole major ally, but while Xi has met four times with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye - including two summits - he has yet to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

As Xi arrived in Seoul on July 3, Pyongyang announced its intention to continue the tests, despite protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

One of the previous launches was hailed by the North's state media as that of a new "cutting-edge" guided missile marking a "breakthrough" in the North's military capabilities.

North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile capability, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.

Statements from Pyongyang have suggested several reasons for the tests, including anger over recent South Korean naval drills near the maritime border.

In between the launches, the North has extended a number of apparent olive branches to the South, including a proposal for both sides to halt all provocative military activity.

Seoul dismissed the offers as "nonsensical" in the light of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

UN resolutions bar the North from conducting any ballistic missile tests, but short- to medium-range launches have tended to go unpunished.