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North Korea fires projectile into eastern waters, 4th test in 2 days

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

PYONGYANG — North Korea fired a projectile into waters off its eastern coast on Sunday, a day after launching three short-range missiles in the same area, officials said.

North Korea routinely tests short-range missiles. But the latest tests came during a period of tentative diplomacy aimed at easing recent tension, including near-daily threats by North Korea to attack South Korea and the United States earlier this year. North Korea protested joint military drills by Seoul and Washington, and U.N. sanctions imposed over its February nuclear test.

The fourth launch occurred Sunday afternoon, according to officials of Seoul's defense ministry and joint chiefs of staff. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing department rules, refused to say whether it was a missile or artillery round.

On Saturday, North Korea fired two short-range missiles in the morning and another in the afternoon. The United States responded by saying threats or provocations would further deepen North Korea's international isolation, while South Korea called the tests a provocation and urged the North to take responsible actions.

The North has a variety of missiles, but Seoul and Washington don't believe the country has mastered the technology needed to manufacture nuclear warheads small and light enough to be placed on a missile capable of reaching the United States.

U.S. officials said the North has withdrawn two mid-range “Musudan” missiles believed to be capable of reaching Guam after moving them to its east coast during the recent tensions.

South Korea's defense ministry said on Sunday it has deployed dozens of Israeli-made precision guided missiles on front-line islands near the disputed western sea boundary as part of an arms buildup begun after a North Korean artillery strike on one of the islands in 2010 killed four South Koreans.

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