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North Korea fires missile; says it was test for ‘reconnaissance satellite’

A man watches a television screen showing news footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the 8th congress of the ruling Workers' Party held in Pyongyang, at a railway station in Seoul on Jan. 6, 2021. Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

North Korea said it held an “important” test for a reconnaissance satellite over the weekend, in its first launch of a ballistic missile since late January.

Its official Korean Central News Agency said Monday the launch that took place a day earlier helped confirm the characteristics and working accuracy of a high-definition photographing system, data transmission system and attitude control devices. North Korea’s space program is seen as having a dual-use application for bolstering its ballistic missiles for the military.

South Korea’s military said its neighbor to the north fired what appeared to be a single ballistic missile at 7:52 a.m. on Sunday from an area near Pyongyang’s main airport toward waters off its east coast. It reached an apogee of about 385 miles (620 kilometers) and had a range of about 186 miles (300 kilometers.)

The launch ramped up tensions as global attention is focused on Ukraine and renewed concern about Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions as the Biden administration faces one of its greatest challenges in managing the global response to the Russian invasion of its neighbor.

Kim Jong Un’s regime had last tested a ballistic missile on Jan. 30, firing an intermediate-range rocket for the first time since 2017 that culminated its biggest monthly series of rocket tests since he took power a decade ago. Pyongyang then held off on missile tests while its neighbor and biggest benefactor, China, hosted the Beijing Olympics.

Kim has shown no interest in the Biden administration’s call for him to return to nuclear disarmament talks, now stalled for about three years. So far the U.S. hasn’t acceded to North Korea’s demands that it ease up on sanctions choking its economy.

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