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Seoul says North Korea fires 3 ballistic missiles

People watch a TV news program showing file footage of North Korea's ballistic missile that the North claimed to have launched from underwater, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. | Ahn Young-joon/AP

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast Monday in a show of force timed to the G-20 economic summit in China, South Korea’s military said.

North Korea regularly engages in missile and rocket tests, especially when international attention is turned to Northeast Asia. World leaders are gathering for the G-20 summit of advanced and emerging economies in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China. Beijing is the North’s only major ally, but ties between the neighbors have frayed amid a string of nuclear and missile tests, and what many outsiders see as other provocations in recent years.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the three missiles, launched from the western North Korean town of Hwangju, flew across the country before splashing in the waters off its east coast, but officials did not describe the range of the missiles.

Before the firing, on Monday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, South Korean President Park Geun-hye criticized the North for what she called provocations that are hurting Seoul-Beijing ties.

The launch comes four days before the 68th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s government, and days after South Korean and U.S. troops ended annual joint summertime military drills, which North Korea regularly describes as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

Last month, worries about the North’s weapons programs deepened after a missile from a North Korean submarine flew about 310 miles, the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon.

In late August, the U.N. Security Council strongly condemned four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August. It called them “grave violations” of a ban on all ballistic missile activity.