North fires four missiles, though three attempts fail

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North fires four missiles, though three attempts fail

North Korea fired four short-range projectiles with a cutting-edge, precision-guided rocket launcher, though three of them fell to the ground, failing to reach the sea, a Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday.

A senior official from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said North Korea appeared to use its KN-09 multiple-rocket launcher, with a Russian GLONASS GPS system, for the launch of the four rockets on Wednesday.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed Pyongyang test-fired four 300-mm projectiles at 7:30 a.m., 7:40 a.m., 5:50 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday at a launch site near Mount Mohyang, in North Pyongan, a central region, toward the East Sea.

However, the two rockets fired in the morning disappeared from the South Korean military’s radar just a few seconds after blast off, the Defense Ministry official said.

One of the two projectiles launched in the afternoon also flew just 130 kilometers (80 miles) and then fell to the ground, the official added.

The other splashed into North Korean waters in the East Sea off Pukchong County, South Hamgyong. It flew 210 kilometers.

The official said the South Korean military assumed the two botched rockets appeared to have landed near Mount Myohyang, with the other near Hamhung, South Hamgyong.

The KN-09 launcher is one of the regime’s more ambitious weapons. Sources say North Korea allegedly imported relevant technologies from China in the early 2000s and has been developing it for the past decade in an aim to precisely strike South Korea’s Gyeryongdae military headquarters in South Chungcheong and the U.S. military base under the construction in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi.

However, the Seoul official said the failed launch of the three projectiles actually proved that there were defects in the regime’s KN-09 launcher.

“Technically, if a rocket is fired with a KN-09 launcher toward the East Sea from Mount Myohyang, it should fly at least 160 kilometers,” the official said. “If it just flew for a few seconds or just 130 kilometers, we can say it is actually a botched launch.”

Since this year, North Korea is known to have used the KN-09 launcher five times, test-firing three or four projectiles each time, according to Seoul officials. They allegedly flew between 150 kilometers and 210 kilometers and splashed around similar spots in international waters off the regime’s east coast. Previous launches with the KN-09 raised concerns in South Korea that the North seemed to have succeeded in developing a cutting-edge multiple-rocket launcher on its own.

That confidence, however, appeared to lead the botched launches on Wednesday, said Shin In-kyun, the head of the Korea Defense Net, a military think tank in Seoul.

“North Korea showed confidence in launching rockets with the KN-09 launcher since its first test-firing last year, gradually extending the range of the projectiles so far,” Shin said. “But that confidence apparently triggered the botched rockets launches.

“In general, it is common to fire a missile or rocket in a coastal region, because the projectile could fall to the ground if it is fired from inland,” Shin said. “However, since this year, North Korea has fired rockets from the west coast or from a central region toward the East Sea, a dangerous act for those in the country.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]






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