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North Korea orders mass production of new missile capable of striking Japan

North Korea says it is ready to deploy and start mass-producing a new medium-range missile capable of reaching Japan and major US military bases there.

The announcement follows a test launch it claims confirmed the missile's combat readiness and is an "answer" to President Donald Trump's policies.

The solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile flew about 310 miles and reached a height of 350 miles on Sunday before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea's media said more missiles will be launched in the future.

Mr Trump, travelling in Saudi Arabia, had no immediate public comment.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the launch and watched from an observation post, state media reported.

The Korea Central News Agency said the test verified technical aspects of the weapon system and examined its "adaptability under various battle conditions" before it is deployed to military units.

Mr Kim reportedly said the launch was a success, "approved the deployment of this weapon system for action" and said that it should "be rapidly mass-produced".

North Korea has significantly speeded up its missile tests over the past year or so and appears to be making tangible progress toward developing an arsenal that poses a threat not only to South Korea and Japan, which together host about 80,000 US troops, but also toward an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

It is moving ahead with its nuclear weapons programme as well.

The North conducted two nuclear tests last year.

It claims one was a hydrogen bomb and the other device created a more powerful explosion than any the North has previous tested.

Satellite imagery suggests it could be ready to conduct its next test, which would be its sixth, at virtually any time.

Pyongyang's often-stated goal is to perfect a nuclear warhead that it can put on a missile capable of hitting Washington or other US cities.

North Korea's media, meanwhile, have stepped up their calls for even more missile launches because of what Pyongyang claims is an increasingly hostile policy by Mr Trump.

"The Trump administration would be well advised to lend an ear to the voices of concern that are heard from the US and the international community," the North's Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary on Sunday.

"Many more 'Juche weapons' capable of striking the US will be launched from this land. This is the DPRK's answer to the Trump administration.'"

Juche, in this usage, refers to domestically produced and DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the ongoing testing is "disappointing" and "disturbing".

AP

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