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North Korea fires short-range missiles off western coast

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  • North Korea fired short-range missiles off its western coast
  • South Korea is trying to confirm reports of the missile launches
  • S. Korea's presidential office said launches just part of "ordinary military training"
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea fired short-range missiles off its western coast Friday, a move the United States said was not illegal but a diversion from the work North Korea needs to do to finish a complete declaration of its nuclear program.

The South Korean government, which has been taking a harder line toward the north, dismissed the importance of the firings.

"The government regards North Korea's missile firing as merely a part of its ordinary military training," South Korean presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told the Yonhap news agency.

"The South Korean government will just continue to watch the missile-related situation carefully," he said. "We're convinced that North Korea doesn't want inter-Korean relations to deteriorate."

A U.S. official said any such short-range missile tests do not constitute a violation of the missile moratoriums, and North Korea didn't break any agreements.

However, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said North Korea's time would be better spent finishing a complete declaration of its nuclear program for the United States and its partners, who have been negotiating the nuclear issue with the country.

Pyongyang agreed last year to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for economic aid and better relations with the United States. North Korea still must finish the nuclear disablement process for the first phase of the agreement, McCormack told an informal gathering of reporters.

Once that's done, the rest of the parties -- Russia, China, Japan and South Korea -- will fulfill their obligations, he said. North Korea has already made an "incredible amount of progress" on disablement, McCormack said.

The firings came a day after the Seoul government pulled 11 of its diplomats from an industrial park the two countries operate in North Korea.

Their departure followed comments made last week by South Korean Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong. He said it would be hard to expand the industrial complex without North Korean progress on denuclearization.

North Korea cited the minister's remarks as a reason for demanding that the South Korean diplomats leave, Yonhap reported. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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