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North Korea says it’s ready to deploy, mass-produce new missile

TOKYO — North Korea said Monday it is ready to start mass-producing a new medium-range missile after a weekend test-launch confirmed its combat readiness.

It called the missile, capable of reaching Japan and major U.S. military bases there, an “answer” to U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies.

The solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) and reached a height of 560 kilometers (350 miles) on Sunday before plunging into the Pacific Ocean. North Korea’s media said more missiles will be launched in the future.

Trump, traveling in Saudi Arabia and Israel, had no immediate public comment.

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

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 to South Korea and Japan — which together host about 80,000 U.S. troops — and developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

It’s moving ahead with its nuclear weapons program as well.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year. It claims one was a hydrogen bomb and the other device created a more powerful explosion than any it has previously tested. Satellite imagery suggests it could be ready to conduct its next test — which would be its sixth — at virtually any time.

North Korea’s often-stated goal is to perfect a nuclear warhead that it can put on a missile capable of hitting Washington or other U.S. cities.

Its state media, meanwhile, have stepped up their calls for even more missile launches because of what the government says is an increasingly hostile policy from President Trump.

“The Trump administration would be well advised to lend an ear to the voices of concern that are heard from the U.S. and the international community,” North Korea’s Minju Joson newspaper said in a commentary Sunday. “Many more ‘Juche weapons’ capable of striking the U.S. 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,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the ongoing testing is “disappointing” and “disturbing.”