Two South Korean newspapers say North Korea has test fired two short-range missiles off its west coast.
The Chosun Ilbo says the two missiles launched Thursday were surface-to-ship missiles. The newspaper says it learned from an unnamed military official the launch was aimed at improving the missile's performance, and was unrelated to next month's scheduled rocket launch.
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report.
North Korea says it will launch a long-range rocket from its west coast sometime in mid-April, with the aim of placing a weather satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il Sung. The United States and other Western nations say the launch is being used by Pyongyang as an excuse to test its long-range ballistic missiles, an activity that is banned under U.N. sanctions.
Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka issued an order Friday for the military to shoot down the rocket if flies over Japan.
Japan issued a similar order in 2009 when North Korea conducted its last long-rang missile test, but did not attempt to shoot the rocket down.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.