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North Korea

North Korea test fires short-range missiles

North Korea has test fired two short-range missiles off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, South Korean media has reported. Meanwhile Pyongyang has agreed to release detained Australian missionary John Short.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that the missiles, fired into the Sea of Japan, were thought to be Scud-C models, capable of flying roughly 500 km (300 miles).

According to South Korea's defense ministry, the missiles are usually fired from launch pads and can be activated with minimal preparation. The distance they can travel would enable them to reach targets in South Korea and Japan.

Monday's report follows claims that Pyongyang carried out a similar test last week, firing four short-range Scud missiles off the east coast.

That test came just days after South Korea and the United States carried out their annual joint military exercises.

Washington accused North Korea of violating UN resolutions, which forbid Pyongyang from "launching any ballistic missile," including Scud missiles.

Australian missionary released

Separately on Monday, North Korea's state news agency KCNA announced that detained Christian missionary John Short would be released and deported.

The 75-year-old was arrested last month for allegedly distributing religious materials.

The agency carried an alleged confession from Short, who it said left "Bible tracts" in a Buddhist temple in the capital during a tour.

"Short acknowledged that his actions were ...unforgivable crimes in violation of our laws, offered an apology and begged for our forgiveness," the agency said.

In a show of North Korea's "generosity" and in consideration of his advanced age, it had been decided that he should be deported, it added.

Missionary work is illegal in North Korea. American evangelist Kenneth Bae has been held for over a year on charges of attempting to overthrow the state. He has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

ccp/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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