North Keeps trying — and failing — to launch an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Around 12 hours after one of the missiles abruptly crashed early Wednesday morning local time in the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, the North attempted a second launch in the same area that South Korea's Defense Ministry also said ended in failure.
It was the third time in less than a month that the attempted launch of a Musudan missile, which is supposed to have a range of around 1,800 miles, far enough to hit Japan and the US territory of Guam, fizzled for Pyongyang. The US Department of Defense said another Musudan test on April 15 ended in "fiery, catastrophic" failure after the missile flew about 19 miles. The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.
Experts said the tests were apparently rushed ahead of a congress next week by North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, the first such gathering since 1980. South Korea also says North is ready to conduct a new nuclear test at any time ahead of the congress, which is scheduled to begin on May 6.
China said the UN Security Council is working on a response to North Korea's latest missile tests, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Pyongyang to cease "further provocative actions."
The first launch on Wednesday occurred at around 6:40am local time and reportedly failed "within seconds." The second attempt happened at 7:26pm local time. The US military's Strategic Command said it tracked two launches, neither of which posed a threat to North America.
"Initial indications reveal the tests were not successful," said Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell, a STRATCOM spokesman. .
Some experts had predicted that North Korea would wait until it figured out what went wrong in the previous launch before attempting another, a process that could take months.
'They didn't have enough time to fix or technically modify the system, but just shot them because they were in a hurry.'
Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum and a policy adviser to the South Korean navy, said the North Koreans appeared to be in a rush to demonstrate a success head of the party congress.
"They need to succeed but they keep failing," he said "They didn't have enough time to fix or technically modify the system, but just shot them because they were in a hurry."
US and South Korean officials have expressed concerns that North Korea could attempt a fifth nuclear test in a show of strength ahead of the congress.
"Signs for an imminent fifth nuclear test are being detected ahead of North Korea's seventh Party Congress," South Korean President Park Geun-hye said at a national security meeting on Thursday.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council met to discuss the latest missile tests at the request of the United States. Diplomats said the council was likely to issue a statement condemning the latest missile tests. Japan's UN Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa, a council member, said that during the closed-door meeting "everybody condemned the latest failed launches."
Ban's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, called the actions "extremely troubling."
On Saturday, North Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which travelled about 18 miles off its east coast.
The tests have come in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions which were strengthened after North Korea's last nuclear test in January and a space rocket launch the following month.
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