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North Korea fired a ground-to-ship missile into the Sea of Japan on Monday — the second such launch in two weeks — in what appeared to be further provocation aimed at gaining Washington’s attention.

According to the Defense Agency, the missile was launched shortly past noon from Sinsang-ri, on North Korea’s northeastern coast. It was not a ballistic missile capable of reaching Japan, the agency said.

Although Japan has not confirmed the specific type of weapon, media reports quoted the South Korean government as saying it was a Silkworm — the same as the type launched Feb. 24.

South Korea reportedly said Monday’s missile landed 160 km off the North Korean coast.

Japanese government leaders played down the incident, claiming that a short-range missile of this type is not a threat to national security, and that a possible launch had been expected since last week.

“As was the case last time, the launch does not threaten Japan’s national security,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a regularly scheduled news conference in the afternoon.

Fukuda said the government obtained information last week that North Korea would ban entry of ships into a part of the Sea of Japan off its eastern coast, a sign of a possible missile test.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, at the Diet, also reacted calmly to the news.

“It’s not an emergency,” Koizumi told the House of Councilors’ Audit Committee. “(But) we will watch this issue carefully.”

The government has been taking a low-key stance toward North Korea’s recent brinkmanship in the belief Pyongyang might try to take advantage of the situation if Japan reacts to provocation.

Shinzo Abe, deputy chief Cabinet secretary, said the government believes the launch was part of routine military drills. But he warned that Pyongyang should keep in mind that such a launch can have only a negative impact on its position in the international community.

“North Korea should fully consider the situation in which it stands now,” Abe told reporters, suggesting that further provocation may lead to discussions on sanctions.

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