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People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul January 30, 2022, after North Korea fired a ‘suspected ballistic missile’ in the country’s seventh weapons test this month according to the South’s military. — AFP pic
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul January 30, 2022, after North Korea fired a ‘suspected ballistic missile’ in the country’s seventh weapons test this month according to the South’s military. — AFP pic

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SEOUL, Jan 31 — North Korea confirmed it had fired a Hwasong-12 “mid-range ballistic missile”, state media reported today, the first time it has tested a weapon that powerful since 2017.

Seoul’s military said it had detected the launch yesterday of an intermediate-range ballistic missile — Pyongyang’s seventh weapons test in January.

North Korea has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons, blaming US “hostile” policy for forcing its hand.

“The evaluation test-fire of Hwasong 12-type ground-to-ground intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile was conducted Sunday,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The test “confirmed the accuracy, security and effectiveness of the operation of the Hwasong 12-type weapon system under production,” KCNA added.

KCNA said the test was carried out using the “highest-angle launch system” to ensure the safety of neighbouring countries, and that the warhead carried a camera that took photos while it was in space.

With peace talks with Washington stalled, North Korea has doubled down on leader Kim Jong-un’s vow to modernise the regime’s armed forces, flexing Pyongyang’s military muscles despite biting international sanctions.

South Korea said yesterday that North Korea appeared to be following a “similar pattern” to 2017 — when tensions were last at breaking point on the peninsula — warning Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

The last time Pyongyang tested an intermediate-range missile was the Hwasong-12 in 2017, which analysts said at the time was powerful enough to put the US territory of Guam in range.

The string of launches in 2022 comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim’s sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March. — AFP

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