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North Korea fires more suspected missiles

North Korea is trying to improve its technology

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SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles Monday, Seoul said, its fourth weapons test this month as Pyongyang flexes its military muscle while ignoring offers of talks from the United States.

The “short-range ballistic missiles” were fired east from an airport in Pyongyang early Monday, the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, with Japan also confirming the launch.

Fired just before 9 a.m., they flew 380 kilometers (kms) at an altitude of 42 kms, the JCS added.

The frequent and varied tests this year indicate North Korea “is trying to improve its technology and operational capability in terms of covert actions,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.

Pyongyang said it successfully tested hypersonic gliding missiles on 5 and 11 January with the second launch personally supervised by Kim.

Meanwhile, a North Korean freight train crossed this weekend the Yalu River railroad bridge into China for the first time in over a year, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The move could signal the prospect of resumed China-North Korea land trade, which has been suspended since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

“This timing suggests Beijing is more than complicit with Pyongyang’s provocations,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“China is supporting North Korea economically and coordinating with it militarily,” he said.

The United States last week imposed fresh sanctions on five North Koreans connected to the country’s ballistic missile programs, prompting an angry reaction from Pyongyang.

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