A Japan Self-Defense Forces soldier stands guard near a PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launcher unit (C), used to engage incoming ballistic missile threats, in position at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on March 6, 2017. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI
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Nuclear-armed North Korea launched four ballistic missiles on Monday in another challenge to President Donald Trump, with three landing provocatively close to America's ally Japan.Seoul and Washington began annual joint military exercises last week that always infuriate Pyongyang, with the North's military warning of "merciless nuclear counter-action". The missiles traveled around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and reached an altitude of 260 kilometers, said a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, adding they were unlikely to be ICBMs.Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests last year and a series of missile launches, but Monday was only the second time its devices had entered Japan's EEZ.Trump has described the North as a "big, big problem" and vowed to deal with the issue "very strongly".Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile last month -- said by the North to use solid fuel and to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead -- which Seoul said was aimed at testing the response from the new administration.North Korea has regularly carried out actions in protest against the drills, last year firing seven ballistic missiles during them.
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