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North Korea missile tests: Biggest launch since 2017

North Korea has conducted what is thought to be its biggest missile launch since 2017.

The weapon was apparently an intermediate range missile which reached an altitude of 2,000km before coming down in the Sea of Japan.

Japan, South Korea and the US have all condemned the launch, the seventh test this month.

The UN prohibits North Korea from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests, and has imposed strict sanctions.

But the East Asian state regularly defies the ban, and leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to bolster his country's defences.

Experts suggest multiple reasons lie behind the spate of launches, including political signalling of strength to global and regional powers, a desire by Kim Jong-un to pressure the US back into long-stalled nuclear talks and also the practical need to test out new engineering and military command systems.

The timing is also seen as significant, coming just before the Winter Olympics in China, and ahead of the South Korean presidential election in March.


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