Seoul: In order to strengthen its defence forces, North Korea test-fired a short- range missile off its west coast last week in the first such launch for 19 months, reports said on Wednesday.

North Korea fired the KN-06 missile into the Yellow Sea in the middle of last week, a news agency quoted an intelligence source as saying.

The source said the North has apparently been trying to increase the range of the KN-06 since last year and last week's launch seemed to be a test. The Defence Ministry in Seoul had no immediate comment.

It newspaper quoted a Seoul military official as saying the launch appeared to have been planned before a series of threats against South Korea last week from the hard line communist state.

The launch, if confirmed, would be the North's first known test of short-range missiles since October 2009, when it test-fired five KN-02 surface-to-surface missiles off its east coast.
Pyongyang in the past has often scheduled such launches for political effect.

Tensions on the peninsula are high following two deadly border incidents last year which Seoul blames on its neighbor.

On May 30, the North announced it would no longer deal with the South's conservative government.

And last Friday its military threatened retaliation unless Seoul punishes troops who used pictures of Pyongyang's ruling dynasty as rifle-range targets.

(Agencies)