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North Korea fires two suspected cruise missiles

North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles Tuesday, Seoul said, its fifth weapons test this year as Pyongyang flexes its military muscles while ignoring US offers of talks.

The last time North Korea tested this many weapons in a month was in 2019, after high-profile negotiations collapsed between leader Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump, AFP reports.

This year Pyongyang has embarked on a fresh flurry of sanctions-busting tests, including hypersonic missiles, after Kim re-avowed his commitment to military modernisation at a key party speech in December.

Washington imposed new sanctions in response, prompting Pyongyang to double down on weapons testing and hint last week that it could abandon a years-long self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range tests.

“North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Tuesday, without giving further details.

Cruise missiles are not banned under current UN sanctions on North Korea, and Seoul does not always report such launches in real time, as it does for ballistic missile tests.

The last time North Korea is known to have tested a cruise missile was in September 2021.

A South Korean military official told the Yonhap news agency that “should such a missile be launched southward, our detection and interception systems have no problem countering it”.