Musudan missile test fails, explodes on launch

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Musudan missile test fails, explodes on launch

North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range missile Saturday in its latest military provocation, but the missile exploded seconds after its launch, the South Korean military reported Sunday.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the North launched what appeared to have been a Musudan missile from the northwestern city of Kusong in North Pyongan Province at around 12:33 p.m. Saturday. A Musudan missile has a range between 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers (1,864 and 2,485 miles), long enough to reach U.S. military installations in Guam.

“The missile exploded in the air just seconds after launch. We are now looking into the cause of the failure,” said a military official on condition of anonymity. The official said South Korea and the United States had closely cooperated in analyzing Saturday’s failed launch and assessed it was a Musudan missile launch. The official added that South Korea’s military analyzed the failed launch by sharing surveillance data provided by the U.S. military obtained by its intelligence assets including satellites.

The launch came nearly four months after the North’s last Musudan test-firing on June 22, which flew some 400 kilometers and reached an altitude of over 1,400 kilometers. Military experts concurred that the June 22 launch could be seen as a success.

With Saturday’s launch, Pyongyang has test-fired a total of seven Musudan missiles this year. Experts say the North has been working on Musudans to put U.S. bases in Guam in its strike coverage, potentially with nuclear warheads mounted on top. On April 15, the North test-fired a Musudan for the first time this year, followed by six launches over a six month period. Of the seven launches, including Saturday’s, only the one on June 22 was considered a success.

The North remained quiet on the 71st anniversary of the founding of the governing Workers’ Party last Monday, betraying expectations that it would fire another missile or perform an underground nuclear weapons test. This year alone, the North carried out nuclear tests in January and September, sparking fierce international condemnation and subjecting it to the toughest-ever UN sanctions, which were approved in March.

In response to Saturday’s launch, the South Korean military made it clear that the North yet again violated UN resolutions that prohibit the regime from testing any technology related to ballistic missiles and said it was maintaining heightened vigilance.

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

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