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North Korea Denies Rocket Firing Was Linked to Pope Francis Visit

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SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said on Friday its firing of three short-range rockets shortly before Pope Francis arrived in the South Korean capital had nothing to do with the papal visit. The rockets were fired from multiple launchers in the North Korean port city of Wonsan and traveled 135 miles before landing in waters east of the Korean peninsula on Thursday, according to a South Korean defense ministry official.

The last rocket was fired 35 minutes before the pontiff was due to arrive at an air base in Seoul, where he started a five-day visit. The test site was hundreds of miles away from the pope's plane. Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency quoted Kim In Yong, research director at the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, as saying it was "absurd" to link the timing of the rocket firing with the pope's visit. "The test firing of ultra-precision high-performance tactical rockets was conducted on the scheduled day and time along with our plan to strengthen our self defensive power," Kim said. "Our scientists do not know what the pope has done for the people of the world, and especially for our nation, and we don't feel any necessity to know about it."

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- Reuters