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N Korea fires two missiles as testing blitz continues

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles yesterday, Seoul said, its sixth weapons test this month in one of the most intense spates of launches on record that has delivered an emphatic rejection of Washington’s offers for talks on its nuclear programme.

Pyongyang has not fired this many missiles in a calendar month in decades, according to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies – a Washington-based think tank.

The last time they came close was in 2019, after high-profile negotiations between leader Kim Jong Un and then-United States (US) president Donald Trump collapsed.

With US talks stalled since then, Pyongyang has doubled down on Kim’s pledges of military modernisation, embarking on a string of sanctions-busting launches this month, including hypersonic missiles.

The sabre-rattling comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim’s sole major ally China hosting Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected two suspected short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Hamhung city area towards the East Sea from around 8am.

“The projectiles flew 190 kilometres at an altitude of 20 kilometres,” they said.

Pyongyang fired two suspected cruise missiles on Tuesday, and tested ballistic missiles on January 14 and 17. It also fired what it said were hypersonic missiles on January 5 and 11.

People walk past a television screen showing a news broadcast of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul . PHOTO: AFP
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