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Seoul test-fires missile that can hit any part of North

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European Union sanctions against North Korea date back to 2006 and are part of global efforts to halt a nuclear and ballistic missile programme which experts say is meant to give Pyongyang the capability to hit the U.S. mainland.

The latest North Korea missile test failed nine minutes into flight, making it only 40 miles before pinwheeling into the sea.

From past year, North Korea took the rare step of publicising images of its missile equipment tests, convincing analysts that Pyongyang's banned programme was further along toward successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) than first thought.

The launch came amid worries that North Korea might soon conduct banned nuclear or long-range rocket tests. It said initial assessments indicated it was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile, the statement said.

Last month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan from the Tongchang-ri region, near the border with China.

Experts and officials in the South and the United States believe Pyongyang is still some time away from mastering all the technology needed for an operational ICBM system, such as re-entry of the atmosphere and subsequent missile guidance.

Besides casting a shadow over U.S.

Japan decided Friday to extend its trade embargo and other unilateral sanctions against North Korea for two years beyond their expiration on April 13.

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North and South Korea are still technically at war, having never signed a peace treaty since the cessation of the Korean war. Earlier this month, North Korea tested a liquid-fuelled Scud missile which travelled only a fraction of its range.

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The U.S. also will test avionics updates to the booster rocket built by Orbital ATK Inc. that carries an improved version of a hit-to-kill conventional warhead, Missile Defense Agency officials have said.

Since then, North Korea has further ramped up its tests and rhetoric, emphasising a consistent message: To create a nuclear device small enough to mount on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and fire it at the United States.

Placing nuclear weapons in South Korea will be the first nuclear deployment overseas since the end of the Cold War, NBC noted.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a terse response to the North's latest provocation, saying "the United States has spoken enough about North Korea".

The exercise began off South Korea's southern coast near Japan on Monday, the South's Defense Ministry said. Sinpo is home to a North Korean submarine base.

Japan also confirmed a "ballistic missile launch" and filed a protest with North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. North Korea sees the drills as an invasion rehearsal.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday further provocative action is possible from North Korea after the reclusive state earlier fired another ballistic missile.

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