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June 23, 2017

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N. Korea hails test of 'breakthrough' missile

SEOUL -- North Korea announced Friday the successful test of a new high-precision, tactical guided missile, as its army threatened a "devastating" retaliation against South Korea for carrying out live fire drills near their maritime border.

The launch of the "cutting-edge" missile was watched by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the North's official KCNA news agency, which hailed the test as a "breakthrough" in national defense capability.

North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.

KCNA did not specify the timing of the test, but it appeared to coincide with the firing on Thursday of what South Korea described as three short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party, published pictures Friday of the new missile being tested with Kim in attendance.

Kim reportedly stressed the weapon's importance in providing a credible "pre-emptive" strike capability.

South Korea's defense ministry related the latest test to Pyongyang's efforts to improve its large-caliber multiple rocket launching (MRL) systems.

"The MRL ranges have been extended and guidance capabilities added to the projectiles," spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

Washington said it was looking into the technical specifics to determine the threat level.

"Technically, obviously any launch of anything is problematic, is escalatory in nature, is threatening," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

On Thursday, the Korean People's Army (KPA) released a statement on KCNA condemning recent South Korean live-fire exercises near their disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea.

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