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North Korea Fires 30 Short-Range Rockets, South Korea Says

North Korea fired 30 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast today, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The projectiles, estimated to have a range of about 60 kilometers, were fired between 4 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. local time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message. The South Korean military will tighten its monitoring of more possible rocket launches by the North and will “remain well prepared,” according to the note.

The firing follows dozens of short-range missiles in the past weeks that prompted calls from the South and the U.S. to refrain from raising tensions, after last month’s family reunions between the two Koreas. The Feb. 20 to 25 meeting for separated families, the first such reunion in more than three years, coincided with the South’s annual drills with the U.S. that the North called preparations for an invasion.

“North Korea often has used missiles as a means of protests against the outside world,” said Kang Dong Wan, a political science professor at Dong-A University in Busan. “But the series of recent firing seems to be more aimed at intensifying tensions within the North and boosting the internal appeal of Kim Jong Un’s military regime.”

North Korean leader Kim said in January the nation’s unity has strengthened since his uncle and second-in-command, Jang Song Thaek, was executed in December. Kim has purged a series of senior officials since taking control of the country in late 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The two Koreas bar their citizens from contacting or meeting one another freely after the 1950-53 war ended without a peace treaty.

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