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North Korea launches ballistic missile

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the the Sungri Motor Complex in Pyeongannam-do, North Korea.

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North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Wednesday local time, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

CNN confirmed the launch with the South Korean military leaders who said it was still flying.

US defense and intelligence officials had been growing increasingly puzzled as to why North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had not tested a ballistic missile in nearly two months.

Before Wednesday's test, North Korea had fired 22 missiles without active warheads during 15 tests since February. US officials say North Korea is continuing to develop its missiles, rocket fuel and engines, as well as targeting and guidance systems.

The US believes Pyongyang may be able to put a miniaturized warhead on a missile sometime in 2018 -- giving it the theoretical capability to launch a missile with a warhead atop that could attack the US.

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