North Korea has again failed in its attempt to launch a powerful missile said to have the potential to reach US military bases in Asia and the Pacific, it is reported.
Today’s attempt would be the latest in a string of high-profile failures that tempers recent worries that Pyongyang was pushing quickly towards its goal of a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach America’s mainland.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said in an unsourced report that the missile was a powerful mid-range Musudan, which, if true, would make it the fourth failure by the North to conduct a successful test launch of the new missile, which could potentially reach far-away American bases in Asia and the Pacific.
Yonhap, citing an unidentified government source, said the missile exploded at a mobile launch pad as soon as a launch button was pressed.
The report, if confirmed, suggests the missile may have even failed to lift off.
The agency did not say how its source obtained the information.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North attempted to launch an unidentified missile early in the morning from the Wonsan area, but probably failed.
The military is analysing what happened.
Despite recent failures, there has been growing outside worry over North Korea’s nuclear and missile activity this year, which includes a nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket test in February that outsiders see as a test of banned long-range missile technology.
The most recent launch follows Seoul’s rejection of recent Pyongyang overtures to talk, part of what some analysts see as an attempt by the North to win concessions from its rivals.
In April, North Korea attempted unsuccessfully to launch three suspected powerful intermediate-range Musudan missiles, which all exploded in mid-air or crashed, according to South Korean defence officials.
South Korean officials believe the missile launches follow an order from the country’s leader Kim Jong Un in March to conduct tests of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying such warheads.
That order was thought to be part of Pyongyang’s reaction to annual South Korea-US military drills that it sees as an invasion rehearsal.
Musudan missiles have a potential range of about 3,500 kilometers (2,180 miles), which would put US military bases in Guam within their striking distance. South Korea believes the North does not yet possess a missile capable of hitting the US mainland, but is working on the technology.
Before April’s suspected launches, North Korea had never flight-tested a Musudan missile, though one was displayed during a military parade in 2010 in Pyongyang.