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A man walks past a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing ballistic missiles, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday condemned North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches and expressed concern over the country's increasingly destabilising behaviour and defiance of the 15-member body.

Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest coast on Monday, angering South Korea and Japan, days after it promised retaliation over U.S.-South Korea military drills it sees as preparation for war.

The Security Council is due to meet behind closed doors on Wednesday to be briefed on the missile launches. 

In a statement on Tuesday, the council deplored the missile launches, saying that "such activities contribute to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension in the region and beyond as well as the risk of a regional arms race."

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions and an arms embargo aimed at impeding the development of its banned nuclear and missile programs since 2006. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of Pyongyang's five nuclear tests.

The council threatened in Tuesday's statement to "take further significant measures."

"The members of the Security Council further regretted that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is diverting resources to the pursuit of ballistic missiles while Democratic People's Republic of Korea citizens have great unmet needs," the statement said.

It called on U.N. member states to redouble their efforts to implement sanctions on North Korea.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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