Accuracy of DPRK missiles improves

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A mock scud missile (C) and South Korean missiles are displayed at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul July 4, 2009.

China appealed for calm and restraint Sunday, one day after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) fired a series of mid-range missiles.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement: "China has noted the situation and hopes all sides show restraint and together maintain regional peace and stability."

Russia made a similar comment.

The DPRK launched seven ballistic missiles, the defense ministry of the Republic of Korea (ROK) said, in an act of defiance toward the United States on its Independence Day.

The ROK said the actions further stoked regional tensions already high due to Pyongyang's nuclear test in May. "We are on high alert," Reuters quoted an ROK defense ministry source as saying.

The DPRK reportedly fired three mid-range Rodong missiles, which can hit all of the ROK and most of Japan. It also launched four Scud missiles, which can strike most of the ROK, Yonhap news agency said.

"Five of the seven missiles fell near the same spot in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), which indicates that their accuracy has improved," an anonymous ROK official told Yonhap. The officials said the missiles flew about 450 km and that it will take a few days to confirm what was fired. The Scuds and Rodongs are both ballistic missiles.

The DPRK has also fired several non-ballistic, short-range missiles since the May 25 nuclear test.

The DPRK has more than 600 Scud-type missiles and 300 Rodong missiles, unnamed defense officials said, according to Reuters.

The latest launches were the biggest barrage of ballistic missiles Pyongyang has fired since it set off seven, including its longest-range Taepodong-2, in 2006 also around July 4.

The DPRK is trying to attract US attention by launching missiles on its Independence Day, said Shi Yuanhua, a researcher on Korea studies at Shanghai-based Fudan University.

"The DPRK's intention is very clear, as it has always been, hoping to hold direct talks with the US," Shi said.

He also said Saturday's launch was no surprise, because everyone knew the DPRK was capable of doing so.

"All sides were well-prepared, so (they are) a bit tired of Pyongyang's actions," he said.

Countries responded differently toward Saturday's launches.

Shortly after the missile launch, the ROK foreign ministry called it a "provocative action", since UN Security Council Resolutions have banned Pyongyong from shooting ballistic missiles.

The Japanese government lodged a protest against the DPRK through diplomatic channels in Beijing, Kyodo News said. Hours after the launch, US State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth called for the DPRK not to "aggravate tensions".

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