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Jun 23, 2:56 AM EDT

S. Korean leader observes missile test amid North's threats



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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday observed a test-firing of a new midrange missile the country is developing to cope with growing threats from North Korea.

After the launch at a military test site on the southwest coast, Moon said it was important for South Korea to maintain military capability that could "dominate" North Korea in order to maintain peace on the peninsula and for future engagement policies with the North to be effective, his spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

Park didn't say how far the Hyunmoo-2 missile flew or where it landed, but said it accurately hit its target space.

"Our people will feel proud and safe after seeing that our missile capability doesn't trail North Korea's," Park quoted Moon as saying.

He quoted Moon as saying he supported dialogue, however, "dialogue is only possible when we have a strong military and engagement policies are only possible when we have the security capability to dominate North Korea."

North Korea this year has tested several new missile systems, including a powerful midrange missile experts say could one day reach targets as far as Hawaii or Alaska. The North also conducted two nuclear tests last year alone as it openly pursues a long-range nuclear missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

The North's missile tests present a difficult challenge to Moon, a liberal who took office in May and has expressed a desire to reach out to Pyongyang.

South Korea's military plans to deploy the Hyunmoo-2, which is designed to hit targets as far as 800 kilometers (497 miles), after conducting two more test firings.

The missile is considered as a key component to the so-called "kill chain" pre-emptive strike capability the South is pursuing to cope with the North's growing nuclear and missile threat. Aside of expanding its missile arsenal, South Korea is also strengthening its missile defense systems, which include Patriot-based systems and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery currently under deployment in the southeast county of Seongju.

South Korea began developing Hyunmoo-2 after a 2012 agreement with its U.S. ally to increase the range of its weapons by 800 kilometers (497 miles) and raise the warhead limit to 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds).

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