UPDATED: North Korea fires two ballistic missiles ahead of Harris’ visit to South

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SEOUL, Sept 28 (Reuters) – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the South’s military said, just a day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to arrive in Seoul.

After a stop in Japan, Harris is set to arrive in the South Korean capital and visit the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the neighbours on Thursday.

Japan’s coast guard also reported a suspected ballistic missile test.

The launch came two days after South Korea and U.S. forces launched a military drill in waters off the South’s east coast involving an aircraft carrier. On Sunday, North Korea had fired another ballistic missile towards the sea off its east coast.

In a speech hours earlier aboard the destroyer USS Howard destroyer in the Japanese city of Yokosuka, Harris said Sunday’s launch was part of an “illicit weapons programme which threatens regional stability and violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions”.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the Security Council has steadily, and unanimously, stepped up over the years to cut off funding for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

North Korea rejects the U.N. resolutions as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defence and space exploration, and has criticised military exercises by the United States and South Korea as proof of their hostile intentions.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya and Trevor Hunnicutt in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez

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