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North Korea fires another ballistic missile in latest challenge to neighbors, U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves to developers of the medium- to long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves to developers of the medium- to long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in Pyongyang.
(Korean Central News Agency / AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea on Sunday fired a medium-range ballistic missile, U.S. and South Korean officials said, the most recent in a flurry of ballistic tests that have rattled neighbors in the region.

The rocket was fired from an area near Pukchang, in South Pyongan province, and flew east about 310 miles, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It did not immediately provide more details.

The White House said it was aware of the missile launch. U.S. officials traveling with President Trump in Saudi Arabia noted that the system used in Sunday’s launch had a shorter range than missiles fired in three previous tests.

The U.S. has repeatedly admonished North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over his drive to improve his reclusive country’s missile technology.

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The firing last week of a mid-range missile that the North said was capable of carrying a heavy nuclear warhead drew White House warnings that North Korea was a “flagrant menace.” Experts said that rocket flew higher and for a longer time than any other missile previously tested by North Korea, and that it could one day reach targets as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.

In Sunday’s test, South Korean officials said the missile landed in the sea. It was tracked by the U.S. Pacific Command.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, who took office this month, convened a meeting of top security officials — appointed only hours earlier — to discuss Sunday’s launch. Moon has said that he wants to try to open talks with the North, but that provocative actions would make that difficult or impossible.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also denounced the test and said it would be the subject of discussions this week with Western allies.

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Despite international efforts to rein him in, Kim has been actively seeking to develop an intercontinental missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the U.S. mainland. North Korea deemed last week’s test a success, saying the missile, capable of carrying a heavy warhead, achieved a longer flight and greater altitude than in previous tests.

“South Korea and the United States are closely analyzing the launch for further information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military for any further provocation and maintaining readiness to respond.”

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year alone, possibly improving its knowledge on making nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles. The country has also conducted a slew of rocket launches as it continues to advance its arsenal of ballistic weapons, which also include mid-range solid-fuel missiles that could be fired from land-based mobile launchers or submarines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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UPDATES:

10 a.m.: Updated with staff reporting, details from White House officials.

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3:10 a.m.: Updated to add U.S. comment, a quote from South Korea and background.

2:20 a.m.: Updated to say the missile flew 310 miles.

This article was first published at 1:55 a.m.


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