North Korean Missile Explodes Seconds After Launch
TOKYO – A North Korean missile fired Wednesday morning exploded within seconds of launch, the South Korean and American militaries said, a reassuring sign for allies worried about the speed at which the country’s weapons program has been progressing.
The attempted missile launch comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, with the United States and South Korea conducting joint military exercises aimed at countering the North Korean threat and the Trump administration clearly signaling it is prepared to use force to stop the Kim regime.
The missile was launched from North Korea’s east coast at about 7 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning.
“North Korea fired one missile from an area near the Wonsan Air Base this morning but it’s presumed to have failed,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.
U.S. Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, said that the missile failed “within seconds of launch.”
It was not immediately clear what kind of missile North Korea had fired. Both militaries were working to analyze the data.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made it clear he wants the capability to strike the United States mainland. In his New Year’s address in January, he said that North Korea had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile.”
In February, North Korea launched its first missile since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, firing a medium-range missile that appeared to show significant technological advances.
Then earlier this month, North Korea launched four missiles, three of which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
While the missiles themselves weren’t new, the tactic was, analysts said. The simultaneous firings appeared designed to outsmart the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense antimissile battery that the United States is deploying to South Korea, which would have difficulty shooting down four targets at once.
Over the weekend, Kim supervised the test of a missile engine that had “historic significance,” according to North Korean state media. Kim declared “that the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries,” the report said, declaring Saturday as the “March 18 revolution” because of the “great leaping forward” in North Korea’s rocket industry.
The test coincided with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to neighboring China, where he met with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Tillerson said in Seoul the previous day that “all options,” including military ones, were on the table to stop North Korea from developing the ability to attack the United States.
Wang urged his counterpart to to remain “coolheaded” about North Korea and not to abandon dialogue.
But from Washington, President Trump made it clear he expected China to use its leverage over North Korea. “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years,” he wrote on Twitter. “China has done little to help!”