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North Korea fires several cruise missiles towards sea, says South Korean military

By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea fired several cruise missiles towards the Yellow Sea in the early hours of Saturday, according to the South Korean military.

Details of the launch were being analyzed by South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

It was the latest in a series of missile tests and military exercises conducted by the North in recent weeks including a failed spy satellite launch late last month, prompting fresh criticism from the country's major political parties.

"It's an act of hostility that threatens the peace on the Korean peninsula," a spokesperson for the ruling People Power Party said.

In a statement carried by state media KCNA, North Korea's foreign ministry accused Japan of raising tensions in the region by developing long-range missiles, but there was no mention of the missile launch.

Japan and the United States are expected to soon agree on jointly developing an interceptor missile to counter hypersonic warheads being developed by China, Russia and North Korea, Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported last month.

Seoul announced sanctions on Friday on five North Korean individuals and one company in response to Pyongyang's launch of what it said was a space rocket last month.

On Thursday state media KCNA reported that Pyongyang had conducted a simulated "scorched-earth" nuclear strike on targets across South Korea, drawing criticism from Seoul.

The joint annual summertime exercises between South Korea and the U.S. known as the Ulchi Freedom Shield came to a close on Thursday after an 11-day run featuring air drills with B-1B bombers.

North Korea protested the deployment of the U.S. strategic bombers by firing two ballistic missiles just hours later in retaliation.

Pyongyang has long denounced the drills as a rehearsal for war.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Sandra Maler and Miral Fahmy)