North Korea fired three short-range rockets off its east coast on Thursday, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said, shortly before Pope Francis arrived in Seoul on his first visit to Asia.
The rockets were fired from multiple launchers in the North Korean port city of Wonsan and traveled 220 km (135 miles) before landing in waters east of the Korean peninsula, a defense ministry official said.
The last rocket was fired 35 minutes before Pope Francis was due to arrive at an air base in Seoul, where the pontiff started a five-day visit to South Korea.
The launches came ahead of U.S.-South Korean military exercises scheduled to start on Monday. Seoul and Washington say the exercises are defensive in nature but North Korea regularly protests against the drills, which it sees as a rehearsal for war.