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Analyst: North Korea practicing 'Guam siege' plan with bolder missile launches

By
Elizabeth Shim
People watch a TV report at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Friday, following North Korea’s latest missile launch. Photo by Yonhap
People watch a TV report at Incheon airport, west of Seoul, on Friday, following North Korea’s latest missile launch. Photo by Yonhap

Sept. 15 (UPI) -- North Korea's latest launch of what is most likely a midrange ballistic missile over Japan is a sign Pyongyang is changing its strategy, and moving closer to perfecting an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, analysts say.

Pyongyang had previously launched multiple missiles designed to land in the East Sea, or the Sea of Japan.

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Friday's test marks the second time in two months North Korea ventured to send a projectile over Japanese territory, daring Tokyo and the international community to take unprecedented measures, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

South Korean military experts say the test may have been a "tough choice" for Kim Jong Un, including the test in August of the Hwasong-12 that passed over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

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But "once [Kim] decided, it is likely the future tests of midrange, long-range missiles will continue as planned," going deeper into uncharted waters, one South Korean military analyst told News 1.

Last month, the North Korean leader said his military should "continue to strive to launch ballistic rockets aimed for the Pacific Ocean," following the Aug. 29 test of the Hwasong-12.

Kim Dong-yup, professor at the Institute for Far East Studies of Kyungnam University in South Korea, said the missile path to the Pacific Ocean is a sign North Korea is carrying out practice for a "Guam siege plan."

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North Korea's missile on Friday covered a distance of 2,300 miles, according to South Korea's military.

Following the missile launch on Friday, a spokesman for Pyongyang's foreign ministry warned the United States against any decision to relocate tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula.

"At a time when the Trump administration is fixated on imposing heinous sanctions on our republic and pursuing military threats, discussing the tactical nuclear weapons issue is an extremely dangerous move," the spokesman said on state-controlled KCNA.

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In a separate statement to Japanese television network NHK, North Korean ambassador Choi Kang Il said North Korea will accelerate nuclear and missile development unless the "Trump regime" shifts its policy.

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