- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

North Korea test-launched two medium-range ballistic missiles at roughly 2:30 a.m. Wednesday — apparently as a show of defiance to U.S. success in bringing Japan and South Korea together this week for historic face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in the Hague.

The State Department responded almost immediately to the missile test-launch, describing the development as a “troubling and provocative escalation that the United States takes very seriously.”

In a statement issued Tuesday night — Washington, D.C., time — State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the “No Dong” missiles were launched from near North Korea’s west coast and that both “flew in an easterly direction over North Korea’s land mass and impacted in the Sea of Japan.”

“It does not appear that North Korea issued any maritime notifications providing warning of the launches,” Ms. Harf said, adding that U.S. officials were “closely monitoring the situation.”

The test launch came as President Obama was overseeing a historic meeting between the leaders of Japan and South Korea — Washington’s two closest Asian allies — on the sidelines of a wider nuclear security summit that wrapped up in the Hague on Tuesday night.

A Reuters report on the meeting said the United States wants to strengthen the allies’ combined response to regional concerns such as North Korea’s banned weapons programs and China’s growing assertiveness in disputed waters.

Washington hopes the three-way, U.S.-Japan-South Korea summit will improve relations between Seoul and Tokyo, the Reuters report said. The relations have been clouded by the legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula and Seoul’s concerns that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to rewrite Japan’s wartime past with a less apologetic tone.

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