(Adds Chinese foreign ministry comment)
SEOUL, July 2 Isolated North Korea fired
short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast on
Wednesday, South Korean media reported, the latest in a flurry
of tests ahead of this week's visit by Chinese President Xi
Jinping to Seoul.
China, the North's main benefactor, has repeatedly come
under pressure from both South Korea and the United States over
the past decade to use its influence to convince Pyongyang to
give up its nuclear and missile programmes.
Xi, who is due to arrive in Seoul on Thursday in his first
visit to South Korea since taking office last year, is
reciprocating Park's visit to China a year ago.
North Korea, which tested two short-range ballistic missiles
on Sunday in violation of a U.N. ban, is expected to be high on
the agenda when Xi meets his South Korean counterpart, Park
The secretive North's nuclear and missile programmes, and
its plans to hold a fourth nuclear test, will dominate the
agenda, officials in Seoul said.
China is usually very guarded in its opinion on North
Korea's nuclear programme but Pyongyang's three nuclear tests
and several rounds of sabre rattling have tested Beijing's
The South's Yonhap news agency quoted a military official as
saying the North test-fired two projectiles on Wednesday that
flew some 180 km (110 miles).
A South Korean defence ministry official was unable to
confirm what kind of weapon was fired on Wednesday, but said
they were assumed to be 300 mm rockets launched from one of the
North's many Multiple Rocket Launchers.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he noted
the news, but added that there was "no basis" to any suggestion
the rocket launches were connected with Xi's trip.
"We hope all sides can do more to alleviate the situation on
the peninsula and jointly safeguard its peace and stability," he
told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
U.N. resolutions prohibit North Korea from procuring and
using ballistic missile technology, but short range rocket
launchers are not included in the ban.
(Reporting By Kahyun Yang; Additional reporting by Michael
Martina in BEIJING; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Jeremy