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Kim oversees North Korean ICBM launch with daughter in tow

Fears have grown that the launches are building up to a nuclear test.

KCNA said the latest missile hit a maximum altitude of 6,040.9km and flew 999.2km, matching estimates by Seoul and Tokyo on Friday.

North Korea previously claimed to have launched a Hwasong-17 – its most powerful missile to date – on Mar 24, releasing a slick promotional video and photos of the event.

But Seoul later cast doubt on that claim.

This time, analysts said it seemed North Korea had succeeded.

“This launch is significant because it is thought to be the first successful full flight test of the Hwasong-17 ICBM,” Joseph Dempsey, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told AFP.

As with all North Korean ICBM tests, the missile was fired on a lofted trajectory – up not out, to avoid flying over Japan.

That means questions remain about its performance, “particularly in terms of surviving reentry into the atmosphere and … accuracy over greater ranges”, Dempsey said.

The “monster missile” also has disadvantages, he added.

“Its sheer size makes it less practical as a road-mobile system, and production would be likely a significantly greater strain on limited resources.”

Since Kim declared North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear state in September, the United States has ramped up regional security cooperation.

The South Korean military said it staged joint air drills with the United States on Saturday involving the US B-1B long-range heavy bomber.

This was the second B-1B deployment to the Korean peninsula this month – it also participated in “Vigilant Storm”, the largest-ever US-South Korea air exercise.

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