April 18, 2016 13:46
North Korea's first-ever launch of its medium-range ballistic missile last week apparently failed, according to military officials here.
"North Korea launched its Musudan missile from the east coast to mark regime founder Kim Il-sung's birthday on Friday, but we presume that it fizzled out," a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said.
The missile is believed to have exploded in mid-air a few seconds after launch. This was North Korea's first attempt to test-fire the Musudan, which was deployed as warfare-ready in 2007 and whose 3,000-4,000 km range makes it capable of striking U.S. military bases on Guam.
An upgraded version of a Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile, the 12-m-long, 1.5-m-diameter Musudan is thought to be able to carry a nuclear warhead weighing 650 kg.
What caused the failure of the launch is still unknown. It is presumed that the missile exploded in mid-air before it was able to enter the powered flight phase.
South Korean and U.S. military experts have raised questions about why the Musudan, which made its debut in the early 2000s, was deployed as warfare-ready in 2007 without a single test-launch of the missile.
After hastily determining the causes of the latest failure, the North will most likely make another attempt ahead of a major Workers Party congress in early May, military authorities here speculated.
The latest missile launch is believed to have been conducted in response to orders issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a month ago.
Meanwhile, a marked increase in vehicular traffic and human activity has been observed at the North's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province, apparently in preparation for a nuclear test. South Korean and U.S. military authorities are stepping up surveillance over the test site.
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