S. Korea reports more test-fires from North

North Korea launches four surface-to-ship missiles

There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive U.S. missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.

A senior USA government official also forecast that the North will likely be ready to test-fire an ICBM within the year.

A senior official from the presidential Blue House in Seoul said Wednesday that the two launchers of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system that had been installed could remain but that four launchers yet to be placed would not be set up until the administration completed an environmental assessment.

South Korean leader Moon has advocated for reconciliation with the North, but shifted to a more stern position following the latest missile tests, posing a significant policy challenge to the left-leaning president.

Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the projectiles, which showed longer range than North Korea's previously known KN-01 anti-ship cruise missiles that can travel up to 160 kilometers (99 miles), were likely from a new cruise missile system North Korea displayed during a massive April 15 military parade.

One of the rockets - deployed on May 21 - was a ballistic missile which travelled for 30 minutes before falling into the Sea of Japan almost 500 miles away from the launch site.

According to Pyongyang's propaganda arm, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the new explosive is a "cruise rocket " capable of "striking any enemy group of battleships".

After the successful test of the Hwasong-12 IRBM, possibly the technological predecessor to, if not a stage of, an eventual liquid-fueled North Korean ICBM, the South Korean defense minister declared that the North's missile program is progressing much faster than initially expected.

North Korea launched a series of short-range missiles early Thursday that appeared to be created to attack ships, the latest provocation by Kim Jong Un's isolated regime.

Last month, North Korea premiered a powerful new midrange missile that outside experts said flew higher than any other missile it has tested.

Pyongyang has ordered three ballistic missile launches, a surface-to-air missile, and Thursday's cruise missile tests since the South's President Moon Jae-in took power in early May.

The launch is the fifth since liberal Moon Jae-in was elected as South Korea's new president in May.

The launches come less than a week after the United Nations Security Council passed new sanctions on the reclusive state, which said it would continue to pursue its nuclear and weapons programme without delay.

The missile tests have triggered calls for tougher United Nations sanctions.

The latest launch was the ninth missile test Pyongyang has conducted this year, the first being the test-firing of a Pukguksong-2 missile over the Sea of Japan, the first launch of the new medium-range ballistic missile.

"Also, the regime could be trying to gain leverage against the US and South Korea".

North Korea is on track to conduct a record number of missile tests this year, with the ultimate goal of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

(Stand-up) "North Korea's nuclear and missile threats have become imminent".

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