Pyongyang’s fourth missile test fails, too

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Pyongyang’s fourth missile test fails, too

North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launch early Tuesday morning from Wonsan was a failure, said the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marking its fourth consecutive mid-range missile failure in less than two months.

“The military is analyzing causes for its failure, such as how long it was in the air,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Jeon Ha-kyu.

If successful, Pyongyang’s IRBMs would be capable of hitting any part of Japan and as far as Guam, with a range of around 3,500 kilometers (2,174 miles). As they are launched from a mobile launcher, it is harder to detect their origin.

A military official told the JoongAng Ilbo that the missile launched on Tuesday morning wasn’t detected by South Korean military radar, meaning it had either exploded or fell into the sea before reaching an altitude high enough for radar detection.

Pyongyang suffered embarrassment in April after all three of its Musudan launches ended in failure. The launches were seen as an attempt by leader Kim Jong-un to rack up a few military achievements ahead of the party congress, which was held for the first time in 36 years from May 6 through May 9.

The first failed Musudan missile test was on April 15, which was possibly a celebration of the 104th birthday of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il Sung.

The missile, which was first deployed in 2007, was launched from a transporter-erector launcher, a missile-launching vehicle. The North then carried out its second and third launches on April 28, both of which failed.

“It appears that the North was in a hurry to make up for its past three launch failures,” said an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But, he added, Pyongyang went ahead “without enough analysis into what had gone wrong in its April launches.”

Experts said it is not normal to launch a missile after a recent failure, as a failed test usually requires one to two months of assessment.

The failed launch came amid repeated offers by the North for talks with the South. It remains to be seen whether the latest failed launch signals the North’s retreat from such conciliatory gestures, which the South regards as “fake” and “lacking sincerity” because they fail to address the nuclear issue.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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