Move Seen by Seoul as Escalation of Recent Provocations

SEOUL—North Korea early Sunday launched two missiles into the sea from near its border with South Korea, a move seen by Seoul as an escalation of provocations after a series of similar launches further away from the border.

The two short-range missiles were launched around 1a.m. local time from near the city of Kaesong, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) north of the border, marking one of the closest launches in recent years, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

The missiles traveled about 500 kilometers northeast before crashing into the sea.

The latest launches follow firings of various projectiles from North Korea’s east coast in recent weeks, including ballistic missiles. The test of ballistic missiles by North Korea is banned under United Nations’ sanctions imposed on it because of its nuclear weapons program.

A similar launch by North Korea on Wednesday was conducted about 40 kilometers north of Sunday’s launch site, the ministry said.

While North Korea didn’t immediately issue any explanation of the overnight launches, its state media Saturday slammed a visit on Friday by USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier, to a South Korean port. Previous similar visits have prompted angry objections from Pyongyang, which portrays them as part of a buildup to an attack on North Korea.

North Korean state media has in recent weeks also indicated that Pyongyang feels unsettled by meetings between the leaders of China and South Korea, as well as talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials.

A recent proposal by Pyongyang to Seoul to cease mutual provocations and slander has been rejected by South Korea as being insincere.

—Alastair Gale contributed to this article.

Write to Jeyup S. Kwaak at