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N Korea fires Scud missile into sea, its third test in three weeks

North Korea has fired a short-range ballistic missile, the third apparently successful test in as many weeks.

The Scud flew about 450km (280 miles) before landing in Japanese waters, prompting Japan to lodge a protest.

Observers say the tests indicate the North is making progress towards missiles capable of carrying warheads.

The North has repeatedly defied a UN resolution banning all nuclear and missile activity, and has ramped up its tests in recent months.

The US Pacific Command said the missile was launched from Wonsan in North Korea and flew for about six minutes before landing.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the missile landed in an area between Japan’s Sado and Oki islands, in their exclusive economic zone.

Map showing Oki and Sado in Japan, and Wonsan in North Korea

A spokesman for South Korea’s military said the missile reached an altitude of 120km, and “an analysis is under way on the specific number” of missiles fired, indicating that more than one could have been launched.

The launch comes a day after North Korea’s state media reported the test of a new anti-aircraft weapon system, and released pictures of leader Kim Jong-un watching the test.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 28 May 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (in white shirt) watching the test of a new anti-aircraft guided weapon system organized by the Academy of National Defence Science at an undisclosed location.Image copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionKim Jong-un (in white shirt) reportedly watched the anti-aircraft system test with top North Korean officials

North Korea has a large stockpile of short-range Scud missiles developed by the Soviet Union. Modified versions of the Scud missiles can have a range of 1,000km.

The previous two launches were of medium to long range missiles, both of which the North claimed as “successful” tests.

The first of those launches was hailed by Pyongyang as a new type of rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead – it was a demonstration of the North’s longest-range nuclear-capable weapon yet.

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Visitors walk past replicas of North Korean Scud-B missile (C back) and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles (L front) at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on September 5, 2016.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionReplicas of the Scud missiles owned by North Korea

Pyongyang has been testing its missiles at an unprecedented pace and experts believe it is steadily edging towards the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland United States.

North Korea says its weapons programme is necessary to counter US aggression.

Read more at BBC.co.uk

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