SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired three short-range projectiles into the sea less than an hour before Pope Francis arrived Thursday for the first papal visit to South Korea in 25 years, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said.

The apparent test firing was conducted from Wonsan on the North’s east coast and flew about 220 kilometres (135 miles), according to a ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office policy.

North Korea has a long history of raising itself to the top of its neighbours’ and Washington’s list of concerns.

North Korea this year has conducted an unusually large number of missile and artillery test firings. Pyongyang has expressed anger over ongoing annual military drills between the United States and South Korea.

Early Thursday, on a dispatch carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA, North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea urged Seoul to scrap the joint U.S.-South Korea drills expected to start in coming days.

The type of projectile has yet to be determined. North Korea did not declare a no-sail zone before firing the projectiles.