Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 15:38 UK

N Korea 'test-fires five rockets'


North Korea has test-fired five short-range missiles off the east coast of the peninsula, South Korea's Yonhap news agency has reported.

The North had declared a "no-sail zone" off its east and west coasts for 10-20 October, Yonhap said.

The launches come days after Pyongyang said it was willing to return to multi-party talks on its nuclear programme.

The US secretary of state said the goal of the US and its allies would remain a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Pressure has grown on North Korea to return to the multi-party talks since it conducted an underground nuclear test in May.

The UN passed tougher sanctions against North Korea in response to the test.

Pyongyang's recent willingness to return to talks it pulled out of in April may be due to it feeling the pinch of the international sanctions, some analysts say.

'Persistent patience'

Citing an unidentified South Korean government official, Yonhap reported the missiles were surface-to-surface KN-02 rockets with a range of up to 75 miles (120km).

Two were launched in the morning, and another three in the afternoon, the agency said.

The missile launches are the first since July.

Speaking in Northern Ireland, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had no further information about the launches.

But she said the goals of the US and its allies "remain the same. We intend to work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula."

"We have made a lot of progress with the other members of the six-party talks who joined us in the very strong sanctions against North Korea and who have been working with us to restart a process there," she said.

Mrs Clinton said the consultation between the US and its allies was "unaffected" by North Korea's behaviour.

"We pursue this goal like we pursue all of our national security goals: through obstacles, overcoming challenges; a persistent patience that doesn't have any guarantee of outcome," she added, according to AFP news agency.

Deteriorating relations

Earlier on Monday, South Korea proposed working-level talks with the North on cross-border flood control and on further reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North has not given a reply to the proposal.

Relations between the two Koreas have deteriorated since President Lee Myung-bak took office in the South in 2008.

He linked the provision of aid to progress on the nuclear issue, drawing the ire of Pyongyang.

North Korea said last month it was continuing to weaponise its plutonium stocks and was in the final stages of uranium enrichment - which would give it a second path to building nuclear weapons.

The North is believed to have enough plutonium to build about six nuclear bombs, but is not thought to have the capacity to make them small enough to deliver on missiles.

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