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N. Korea fires new test missile

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has test-fired another missile into the sea off its east coast, according to South Korea's Defense Ministry.

The missile was believed to be a surface-to-vessel anti-ship missile similar to one North Korea test-fired on February 24 on the eve of the inauguration of South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun.

The missile landed in the Sea of Japan, or East Sea as it is known in South Korea, around noon local time (0300 GMT).

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told CNN they were still examining whether the test had been successful. An earlier test was deemed a failure after the missile appeared to explode in mid-air.

Washington said the test was not unexpected, citing a North Korean warning to ships to stay out of a sector of the Sea of Japan from Saturday to Tuesday.

The U.S. downplayed the significance of the latest test, despite the diplomatic row over North Korea's refusal to disband its nuclear weapons program. (U.S.: N. Korea will talk 'eventually')

In Tokyo, the chief of Japan's Defense Agency, Shigeru Ishiba, said the missile did not appear to target Japan.

"We don't think this will have any significant impact on our national safety, but we are monitoring it closely," he told a parliamentary session.

Ahead of the test, U.S. officials told CNN they believed North Korea would conduct another test of its KN-01 short-range anti-ship missile, which is under development.

South Korean officials Monday said they also believed the KN-01 was the subject of the test -- the same type of missile tested several weeks ago. (Previous test)

The U.S. plans to resume reconnaissance flights over the Sea of Japan following the interception last week of an Air Force RC-135 by North Korean MiG fighters, U.S. military sources said.

Officials said they hope to get Japan and South Korea to participate in the reconnaissance missions.

In recent months, the North has kicked out U.N. nuclear inspectors, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and warned that it might drop out of an armistice that stopped the 1953 Korean War.

The United States has ruled out the option of direct talks with North Korea, saying any diplomatic efforts required the cooperation of neighboring countries such as Russia, China, and Japan.

-- CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae and Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.


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