South Korean media report that North Korea has test-fired two short-range missiles.
Yonhap news agency reported Thursday the North fired two ground-to-ship missiles from its eastern coast. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff could not immediately confirm the reports.
North Korea had earlier issued a no-sail zone in waters off its east coast through July 10, viewed as a prelude to such missile tests.
These missile launches could seriously exacerbate tensions that have been running high since Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test and a series of missile firings. The U.N. Security Council adopted a tough sanctions resolution last month to punish the communist regime.
The North also threatened in April to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. Last month, a Japanese newspaper reported that the North could test-fire a long-range missile toward Hawaii as early as around July 4. The U.S. has beefed up defenses around Hawaii.
But Seoul's YTN television news network said Thursday there are no signs of an imminent long-range missile launch.
The reported missile moves came after a North Korean ship — suspected of possibly carrying illicit weapons — changed course and was heading back the way it came after remaining under U.S. surveillance for more than a week.
The North Korean ship is the first vessel monitored under the new U.N. sanctions that seek to clamp down on Pyongyang's trading of banned arms and weapons-related material by requiring U.N. member states to request inspections of ships suspected of carrying prohibited cargo.
The North has said it would consider interception of its ships a declaration of war. On Wednesday, North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper renewed the warning.
"Touching our ships constitutes a grave military provocation against our country," the paper said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. "These acts will be followed immediately by self-defensive military countermeasures."