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Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest coast, angering South Korea and Japan. File photo: Reuters

North Korea fails in new missile test, US military says

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missile may have exploded as it was launched, before reaching an altitude at which it could be detected by South Korean radar

North Korea

South Korea and US officials vowed “strong punitive steps” against Kim Jong-un’s regime if it continued provocations after North Korea appeared to conduct a failed missile test on Wednesday.

Meeting in Seoul, Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his US counterpart Joseph Yun reaffirmed a commitment to push Kim harder to drop its push for nuclear weapons. Recent provocations are probably a prelude to the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a South Korean foreign ministry statement.

The South Korean defence ministry earlier said that North Korea appeared to have fired an unidentified missile from its Wonsan air base in the east. If confirmed, it would be the third round of missile tests by North Korea this year, as it seeks to develop the capability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the US in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

“A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch,” Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, said, adding that work was being carried out on a more detailed assessment.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missile may have exploded as it was launched, before reaching an altitude at which it could be detected by South Korean radar.

South Korea’s Kim and the US’s Yun agreed that all countries including China must strictly implement UN sanctions against North Korea, according to the foreign ministry. They said that it’s important to cut off sources of the regime’s foreign-currency income and limit the activity of its people working abroad to further isolate it diplomatically and economically..

Just last week US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Japan, South Korea and China and how to handle North Korea was a major issue in his talks.
Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson said a policy of strategic patience with North Korea had ended and all options, including a military one, were on the table if North Korea threatened South Korean or US forces.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is briefed by US General Vincent Brooks as a North Korean soldier takes a photograph through a window at the UN Command Military Armistice Commission meeting room at the border village of Panmunjom. Photo: AFP

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of last year in defiance of UN resolutions. It is believed to be working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

The initial reports of North Korea’s tests on Wednesday came from Japan’s Kyodo news agency, which cited a Japanese government source saying North Korea may have launched several missiles from an area on its east coast. Kyodo also said the launch may have failed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea. Photo: AFP

Last year, North Korea launched several intermediate-range missiles from the same area but only one of the tests was successful.

North Korea launched four ballistic missiles from near its west coast on March 6 and this week conducted a rocket engine test that its leader, Kim Jong-un, said opened “a new birth” of its rocket industry.
US President Donald Trump on Sunday criticised Kim, saying the North Korean leader was “acting very, very badly”.

A senior US official in Washington said on Monday that the Trump administration was considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.

The United States is also deploying an advanced missile defence system in South Korea. But China objects to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system, saying its powerful radar can penetrate deep into its territory, undermining its security.

Undaunted by the possibility of even tougher sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system, a North Korean diplomat said his government would pursue an “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programmes.

This includes developing a “pre-emptive first strike capability” and an inter-continental ballistic missile, said Choe Myong-nam, deputy ambassador at the DPRK (North Korean) mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Pyongyang fails with latest missile test