US military detects failed North Korean missile launch
The failed launch occurred near the northwestern city of Kusong, according to a statement by the US Defense Department. It is presumed to be a Musadan model intermediate-range ballistic missile, which would be capable of hitting US military bases as far away as Guam, added the US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
"We strongly condemn this and North Korea's other recent missile tests," said US Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.
"Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, is ironclad. We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."
The launch was detected just after midday on Saturday, 15 October, local time (03:03 UTC).
North Korea has test-launched similar missiles seven times to date, with only one attempt resulting in a partial success.
North Korea flexing its muscles
North Korea has claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its goal of developing a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental United States. South Korean defense officials, however, say that the North does not yet have such a powerful weapon. However, the country has succesfully conducted a number of nuclear tests.
The Musudan missile has a range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles), able to hit targets in South Korea but also elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean, including US military facilities.
A month ago in September, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast, as world leaders including US President Barack Obama were visiting the region for a series of summits. Previously in August, Japanese and South Korean officials confirmed the launch of another medium-range ballistic missile, which reportedly flew about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) and landed near Japan's territorial waters.
The hermit nation has launched more than 20 ballistic missiles this year, working on its program to improve the delivery system for nuclear weapons. US weapons analysts say that successful Musudan testing could indeed help North Korea develop an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the US mainland by 2020.
Existing UN sanctions prohibit North Korea from using ballistic missile technology. Following the recent spike in such military activity in North Korea, the United Nations said it will consider further sanctions.
ss/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)