Pyongyang defiant as ballistic missile flops
SEOUL: A North Korean midrange ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch yesterday, South Korea and the US said, the third testfire flop just this month but a clear message of defiance as a US supercarrier conducts drills in nearby waters.
North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they are seen as part of the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the US mainland.
The latest test came as US officials pivoted from a hard line to diplomacy at the UN in an effort to address what may be Washington’s most pressing foreign policy challenge.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!”
He did not answer reporters’ questions about the missile launch upon returning to the White House from a day trip to Atlanta. North Korea didn’t immediately comment on the launch, although its state media on Saturday reiterated the country’s goal of being able to strike the continental US.
The timing of the North’s test was striking. Only hours earlier the UN Security Council held a ministerial meeting on Pyongyang’s escalating weapons program. North Korean officials boycotted the meeting, chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 71km before it apparently failed.
It didn’t immediately provide an estimate on how far the missile flew, but a US official said it was likely a mediumrange KN-17 ballistic missile.
It broke up a few minutes after the launch.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking after a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council, said the missile was believed to have travelled 50km and fallen on an inland part of North Korea. Analysts say the KN-17 is a new Scud-type missile developed by North Korea.
Moon Seong Mook, a South Korean analyst and former military official, said the North would gain valuable knowledge even from failed launches as it continued to improve its technologies.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced the launch as an “obvious” violation of UN resolutions and the latest display of North Korea’s “belligerence and recklessness”.
“We sternly warn that the North Korean government will continue to face a variety of strong punitive measures issued by the UN Security Council and others if it continues to reject denuclearisation and play with fire in front of the world,” the ministry said.
Saturday’s launch comes at a point of particularly high tension. Mr Trump sent a nuclearpowered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters and North Korea this week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast.
The US and South Korea also started installing a missile defence system that is supposed to be partially operational within days.