North Korea test-fired several short-range ballistic missiles on Sunday, observers in South Korea said, in a provocative weapons demonstration that US and South Korean defence sources say could lead to a live nuclear missile test.

A salvo of eight missiles was fired over 35 minutes from at least four different locations in North Korea, both from western and eastern coastal areas and two inland areas close to the capital, Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Sung Kim, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, expressed “deep regret” that North Korea was continuing weapons development despite the unconfined Covid-19 outbreak at home.

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The Hwasong-12 missile misfired and flew just 40 miles before crashing

The missiles were deliberately fired into the sea, but there have been concerns about the accuracy of North Korea’s missile tests after a test missile in 2017 ended in an embarrassing blunder for Kim Jong-un’s nation.

A Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which can carry a 1,430lb warhead at hypersonic speeds over a range of up to 2,300 miles malfunctioned in a 2017 test and crashed into buildings in the city of Tokchon – around 40 miles from the launch facility in South Pyongan Province.

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Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said at the time: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is at its severest since World War 2.

North Korea test-fired eight short-range ballistic missiles this weekend
North Korea test-fired eight short-range ballistic missiles this weekend

“By raising pressure on North Korea, together with the international community, I intend to do my utmost to solve North Korea’s nuclear, missiles and abduction issues.”

Donald Trump, who was US president at the time tweeted: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times’.

“Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

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In March, Pyongyang test-fired the successor to that missile – with a second stage that increases its range to an estimated 6,500 miles – putting major population centres such as New York City in North Korea’s sights for the first time.

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