North Korea fires short-range missiles into sea, ahead of Xi's visit to Seoul

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea fired three short-range projectiles into the sea on Thursday in an apparent show of force ahead of an expected visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Korea.

The projectiles were launched from the North's eastern port of Wonsan and flew 190 kilometres into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the South's defence ministry said.

"We are looking into exactly what type of projectiles were fired," a ministry spokesman told AFP, adding they could be missiles or rockets.

"It's still unclear if North Korea test-fired new weapons, or launched them for intentional provocation," he said, adding that South Korean troops had increased their vigilance along the border.

Chinese leader Xi is expected to make a state visit to Seoul next week.

It would be the first time in almost two decades for a sitting Chinese president to visit South Korea before going to North Korea.

The North's young leader Kim Jong Un has yet to be invited to Beijing.

It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out such tests, which often go unreported by South Korea.

In March, North Korea conducted multiple launches of short-range Scud missiles and rockets to coincide with annual joint military drills South Korea conducted with the United States.

The North also test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles that flew 650 kilometres off its east coast, prompting a stern reaction from Washington and Seoul.

South Korea condemned the missile launches as a "reckless provocation" but stopped short of calling for UN sanctions.

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