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North Korea Fires Missiles Off Coast As Pope Lands In Seoul

North Korea fired three short-range rockets into waters off the country's east coast on Thursday, freelance reporter Jason Strother tells our Newscast Desk. He adds that the timing suggests a connection to either a visit by Pope Francis or upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

Jason reports from Seoul:

North Korea had been invited to send delegates to South Korea for when the Pope holds mass here this weekend. But Pyongyang declined the offer.

Human rights advocates say the North doesn't tolerate western religions. And the regime has imprisoned one American who is a Christian missionary.

The Associated Press notes that North Korea often makes noise when there are high-profile events or military exercises in the south.

North Korea this year has conducted an unusually large number of short-range missile and artillery test firings. Pyongyang has expressed anger over annual military drills between the United States and South Korea, which it says are invasion preparations.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.