SEOUL: North Korea on Sunday tested its most powerful missile since 2017, ramping up the firepower for its record-breaking seventh launch this month as Seoul warned nuclear and long-range tests could be next.

Pyongyang has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons, blaming US “hostile” policy for forcing its hand. With peace talks with Washington stalled, North Korea has doubled down on leader Kim Jong Un’s vow to modernise the regime’s armed forces, flexing Pyongyang’s military muscles despite biting international sanctions.

South Korea said Sunday that North Korea appeared to be following a “similar pattern” to 2017 — when tensions were last at breaking point on the peninsula — warning Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

North Korea “has come close to destroying the moratorium declaration”, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said in a statement following an emergency meeting of Seoul’s National Security Council.

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