STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
For a country not currently fighting a full-blown war, North Korea fires an awful lot of missiles. Last night, North Korea's military fired a series of missiles into the sea near Japan. NPR's Elise Hu reports.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Just after dawn in East Asia, North Korea launched four missiles from near its border with China. South Korea's military said they flew about 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles. Three of the missiles landed in waters which are part of Japan's exclusive economic zone.
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PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: (Foreign language spoken).
HU: "Launching ballistic missiles at this time shows clearly that North Korea has become a new menace for Japan," said Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister. Japan, South Korea and the U.S. State Department condemned the launch but that these kinds of international rules-breaking tests have become common is the biggest concern among North Korea watchers.
DANIEL PINKSTON: Recently, we've seen a regime that is willing to accept greater risks.
HU: Longtime military analyst Daniel Pinkston, who teaches at Troy University, says it's not just the missile and nuclear tests concerning him. It's also the recent assassination of leader Kim Jong Un's half brother in Malaysia, using a banned nerve agent.
PINKSTON: In my personal view, if they do not pay a price for this behavior - and I think they should pay a high price - then they will continue with it.
HU: What neighbors and the U.S. will do next is unclear. North Korea is already under heavy sanctions. The young Donald Trump administration has yet to put out its policy, and South Korea is stuck in a leadership vacuum. The South Korean president was impeached in December and is awaiting a court verdict on whether she's removed for good. All of this as North Korea steadily pushes ahead with its missile program. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.
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