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(LEAD) N.K. says its leader OKs deployment of new missile for action

07:12 May 22, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has approved the deployment of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile for combat use as the country succeeded in test-firing it, Pyongyang's state media said Monday.

North Korea's leader observed the launch of the new ground-to-ground Pukguksong-2 missile, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

North Korea fired the missile from the vicinity of Pukchang in the country's western province on Sunday, a week after it test-fired another new intermediate-range ballistic missile, called the Hwasong-12.

The North's leader approved the deployment of the Pukguksong-2 for action, calling it a "successful strategic weapon," the KCNA said.

The missile appears to be the same type that was launched Feb. 12, according to South Korea's military. It is known to have been developed with the technology applied in submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The latest test marked North Korea's second missile launch since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office May 10.

North Korea's continued missile launches are likely to test Moon, who earlier vowed to seek a dual approach to the North's denuclearization and inter-Korean dialogue. On Friday, North Korea condemned Moon's policy, saying dialogue can never be compatible with confrontation.

The provocations came despite the U.S. top diplomat's latest assurance that the U.S. has no intention to seek a regime change in North Korea.

Shrugging off what appears to be Washington's conciliatory gesture, North Korea said Saturday that it will develop and produce more powerful weapons.

North Korea is seeking to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can carry a nuclear warhead and reach as far as the U.S. mainland.

North Korean leader Kim said in January that his country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM.

Experts said the North's reckless provocations seem to be aimed at seeking dialogue with the U.S. on equal footing by strengthening its nuclear capabilities.



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