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North Korea claims test of new cruise missile to target warships

North Korea says it has tested a new type of cruise missile that is a powerful means of attacking enemy warships, a day after South Korea's military detected projectiles fired from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan.

It is the fourth new missile system Pyongyang says it has introduced and successfully tested this year alone, sending a defiant message to its enemies that it will continue to pursue a weapons programme that has rattled its neighbours and Washington.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed the launches, according to the official Korean Central News Agency, which said the missiles "accurately detected and hit" floating targets at sea after making "circular flights".

The missiles, which the South said flew about 125 miles, were tested in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, where US aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan participated in joint exercises with the South Korean navy that ended earlier this week.

"This new-type cruise rocket is a powerful attack means capable of striking any enemy group of battleships" attempting to attack North Korea and can be used "at will", the KCNA report said.

The missile tests present a difficult challenge to new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has expressed a desire to reach out to the North.

North Korea, which could have a working nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile in the next few years, may also be the most urgent foreign policy concern for the Trump administration, which has been distracted by domestic political turmoil and has insisted China do more to rein in the North's weapons activities.

South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the launch was intended to show off Pyongyang's widening array of missiles and its "precision strike capabilities" on ships in response to the joint drills.

Britain's UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft condemned North Korea's "latest provocations" and said "we look forward to working with our council colleagues about the best way to respond to them".

He added that it was possible the launches were "underneath a threshold to count as a violation" of UN sanctions against North Korea that ban certain nuclear and missile tests.

The Security Council voted unanimously on June 2 to add 15 individuals and four entities linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes to a UN sanctions blacklist.

That was in response to previous ballistic missile tests that violate UN sanctions.

AP

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