North Korea's missile test on the birthday of its revered founding leader, Kim Il-sung, appears to have failed, U.S. and South Korean officials said. The launch comes just a day after Seoul raised concerns that Pyongyang had deployed one or two intermediate range ballistic missiles on its east coast.
South Korean sources reportedly said that the rocket has not yet been identified but is suspected to be a Musudan missile, also known as BM-25, which could be capable of reaching U.S. military bases in Asia. On Thursday, a mobile launcher was spotted carrying up to two Musudan missiles, according to Yonhap news agency, which cited multiple South Korean government sources. The missile test, which, if confirmed to have failed, will be an embarrassment for North Korea, and comes after Kim Jong Un announced that they had successfully conducted a fourth nuclear test in January. The nuclear test was followed by a long-range rocket launch the next month, which led to fresh U.N. sanctions.
According to Reuters, U.S. and South Korean officials were trying to get details on North Korea's latest missile, which experts believed was designed to put the mainland United States within range.
However, U.S. intelligence believes that chances of North Korea's missiles reaching the U.S. are low, but the region can increase its abilities by making continued investment in missile defense. The North American Aerospace Defense Command also reportedly said that the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America.
"We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations," a U.S. State Department official said, according to the BBC.
China's official Xinhua news agency on Friday condemned North Korea's firing of the intermediate range ballistic missile.
"The firing of a mid-range ballistic missile on Friday by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), though failed, marks the latest in a string of saber-rattling that, if unchecked, will lead the country to nowhere," it said in an English language commentary, according to Reuters.
Friday's launch comes as tensions between the two Koreas escalate amid Pyongyang's anger over annual South Korean-U.S. military drills. On Wednesday, North Korea blamed the U.S. for the increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA said that the drills were challenging Pyongyang’s dignity and they were an “open declaration of war.”
“If the US-south Korea joint war drills targeting the supreme leadership of the DPRK show any slight sign of going over into an actual war, the DPRK will launch a merciless preemptive nuclear attack to reduce the enemy bases to ashes,” the report said, adding: “The DPRK will no longer tolerate the reckless nuclear war drills of the US and the south Korean puppet group.”