As has become his custom, Kim Jong-Il helped the US celebrate its Independence Day by shooting off a few rockets.  In fact, North Korea launched seven ballistic missiles off of its eastern coast, which would have sent them in the direction of Japan.  They appear to have been the short-range Scuds and not the long-range Taepodong-2s:

North Korea fired seven ballistic missiles off its eastern coast Saturday, South Korea said, a violation of U.N. resolutions and an apparent message of defiance to the United States on its Independence Day.

The launches, which came two days after North Korea fired four short-range cruise missiles, will likely further escalate tensions in the region as the U.S. tries to muster support for tough enforcement of the U.N. resolution imposed on the communist regime for its May nuclear test.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said three missiles were fired early Saturday, a fourth around noon, two more in the afternoon and the seventh at about 5:40 p.m. (4:40 a.m. ET). The Defense Ministry said that the missiles were ballistic and are believed to have flown more than 250 miles.

As USA Today notes in its report, Kim isn’t allowed to shoot off his Scuds or any other kind of ballistic missiles.  The UN has specifically banned such launches as part of the sanctions against Pyongyang.  Apparently — and I could be wrong about this — the specter of another strongly-worded memo hasn’t cowed Kim into submission.

Could a Taepodong-2 be next?  South Korea says no, and that the missile Kim threatened to fire hasn’t made it to the launch pad yet, making a launch today highly unlikely if not flat-out impossible.  The US has its tracking systems and missile-defense radar deployed just in case we have to do a real-world test of the technology, though.  That could have convinced Kim to keep the T-2 off the pad and stick with Scuds.  It’s what we should have done in April when we knew the last T-2 would fly, but at least we’re doing it now.