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North Korea tests missile, Seoul says, ahead of vote seen as gauge of support for hardline South Korean leader

Seoul, South Korea CNN —

North Korea test-fired a presumed intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday, South Korean officials said, its latest military maneuver since leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year declaration that he was ending a policy seeking reconciliation with the South.

Pyongyang made no immediate comment on the suspected test, which comes just over a week before key legislative elections in South Korea that will provide a barometer of support for conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a hard line against the North during his two years in office.

North Korea, which has faced years of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, has ramped up its weapons tests and military exercises in recent weeks.

On March 19, Pyongyang said it had tested a multistage, solid-fueled rocket engine for a “new-type intermediate-range hypersonic missile,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim said after that test the development of the IRBM system was as important to North Korea’s security as its intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in theory could reach the United States mainland.

The KCNA report on the engine test did not give further details of the new hypersonic weapon, but North Korea has previously said it tested ahypersonic glide vehicle (HGV).

While all ballistic missiles reach hypersonic velocity – five to 10 times the speed of sound – in their terminal phase, an HGV can maneuver at high speeds as it nears a target, enabling it to evade detection and missile defenses.

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