- Seoul says it believes North Korea fired three short-range missiles earlier this week
- Short-range missile tests are common and cause less concern than longer-range ones
- The tests come nearly a month after the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il
- His youngest son and designated successor, Kim Jong Un, has become the new leader
North Korea apparently test-launched three short-range missiles this week, the South Korean Defense Ministry said Friday, an indication that the reclusive state's military is operating normally after a leadership transition.
"We understand that North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles earlier this week," a spokesman for the Defense Ministry said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity as is customary for South Korean military officials. He declined to comment further on the matter.
North Korea often fires short-range missiles during military drills. They cause less concern in the region than longer-range missiles.
The report of the test firings came nearly a month after the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who had made the nation's military the focal point of his 17 years in power. Pyongyang fired a short-range missile over the East Sea on December 19, the day it announced Kim's death to the world.
The regime has since anointed Kim's youngest son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, as its new "supreme leader."
State-run television aired video last weekend showing the younger Kim in a tank and on horseback, continuing efforts to build up his image as the rightful successor to his father.
Kim Jong Un had received little attention from the North Korean state media until he emerged as the likely successor to his father in September 2010.