SEOUL – North Korea on Thursday fired a missile, presumed to be an intermediate-range ballistic Musudan, but the launch appeared to have failed, according to a South Korean military official.
The launch was made at around 6:50 a.m. from an area near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, but the missile appeared to have crashed within a few seconds of being fired, the official said.
On April 15, North Korea fired another missile, also presumed to be a Musudan, from its east coast, but this too appeared to have failed, having also disappeared seconds after being launched.
If proved to be a Musudan, the two tests would be the first known launches of that type of missile.
The first of the two launches was carried out on the birthday of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un, and came amid calls from the international community, including North Korea’s most important ally China, for Pyongyang not to carry out any more provocative acts in violation of United Nations resolutions.
North Korea is banned from conducting launches using ballistic missile technology under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The latest sanctions on North Korea were imposed in the wake of the country’s fourth test of a nuclear device in January, and its launch of a long-range rocket using banned ballistic missile technology in February.
The Musudan missile has an estimated range of between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometers, which would enable it to reach not only any target in South Korea or Japan, but also potentially U.S. military facilities on the Pacific island of Guam.
The two failed launches could be embarrassing for the Kim regime, as the county prepares for the first congress of the ruling Workers Party of Korea for more than three decades.
The congress, to be held from May 6, is expected to offer Kim Jong Un an opportunity to consolidate his power and outline his achievements since taking power in late 2011 following the death of his father.