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People watch a TV screen showing a news program reporting about North Korea's missile with file footage, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
South Korea broadcasters used footage of prior launches when discussing the latest apparently failed test near PyongyangImage: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo/picture alliance

North Korea projectile launch likely 'failed,' Seoul says

March 16, 2022

South Korea's Defense Ministry has said that North Korea attempted another "unidentified projectile" launch, but that it appeared to have failed. Pyongyang has been testing missiles at an unprecedented pace this year.


The Japanese Defense Ministry on Wednesday morning reported a suspected missile launch by Pyongyang, with South Korea's Defense Ministry soon clarifying that it believed the operation had failed.

What do we know about the launch?

"North Korea fired an unidentified projectile from the Sunan area around 09:30 today, but it is presumed that it failed immediately after launch," Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

The JCS added that US and South Korean analysts were conducting further  investigations.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that it was not yet clear whether the attempted launch was a ballistic missile. 

The location would seem to suggest it was an attempted launch from an airfield outside the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, site of several similar tests this year. 

Lee Choon Geun, an honorary research fellow at South Korea's Science and Technology Policy Institute, said the missile probably exploded less than a minute after its launch. He said if the missile's fuels had fallen on civilian residential areas in North Korea, they would likely cause a major health impact, being toxic.

There was no immediate outside report of such an event in North Korea.

 The US Indo-Pacific Command later confirmed that North Korea had fired a ballistic missile but didn't say whether it was a failed launch.

Other North Korean missile tests

North Korea has launched nine projectiles this year, and Wednesday's attempt would have been the 10

th. The most recent successful launch took place on March 5.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration after recent satellite system tests, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released on March 10, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
For recent projectile launches, North Korean state media published images purporting to show Kim Jong Un inspecting operations, after a period where he had stayed away from launch testsImage: KCNA via REUTERS

Two of the recent tests at the same site were of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the US and South Korea, which would be a violation of UN resolutions. North Korea said those tests were developing components for a reconnaissance satellite. 

Washington and Seoul also said last week that Pyongyang appeared to be restoring some tunnels at its shuttered nuclear test site. The reclusive country has conducted six nuclear tests in total, all this century, but none since 2017.

A fresh ICBM launch would be an early test for South Korea's new president-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, who campaigned on a pledge to take a tougher line against the North. 

South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol: 'I will build strong armed forces'

Although Yoon did not rule out the possibility of dialogue with Pyongyang during the campaign, he and his party are more broadly seen as a hawkish alternative to his liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in. Outgoing president Moon repeatedly sought rapprochement with the North during his 5-year term.

Yoon is scheduled to take office on May 10.

tj,msh/sdi (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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