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(LEAD) N.K. says it launched Hwasong-12 missile to counter Seoul-Washington drills

2017/08/30 07:16

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

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched the firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, saying that the test was aimed at countering military drills between Seoul and Washington, the state media said Wednesday.

The launch of the Hwasong-12 missile was conducted to test the actual war operational capacity by the military, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim said that the firing is "the first step of the military operation of the Korean People's Army in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam," the report said.

South Korea's military said Tuesday that the missile was launched from Pyongyang and flew over Japan. It traversed more than 2,700 kilometers and reached a maximum altitude of around 550 km.

Guam, approximately 3,000 km southeast of North Korea, hosts key U.S. naval and air force bases that can be used to dispatch forces to the Korean Peninsula in the event of an emergency situation.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missile strikes near Guam though he later held off on it.

Kim said that he will continue to closely watch the U.S. a little more before making a decision, the KCNA said.