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N Korea ‘projectile’ launch ends in failure

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – A North Korean missile fired from its capital region exploded soon after liftoff in an apparent failed weapons launch yesterday, South Korea’s military said, amid speculation that the North is preparing to launch its longest-range missile in its most significant provocation in years.

Details of the missile explosion weren’t immediately known. But the launch, the 10th of its kind this year, shows North Korea is determined to press ahead on its push to modernise its weapons arsenal and pressure its rivals into making concessions amid dormant denuclearisation talks.

The North Korean missile blew up while it was flying at an altitude of less than 20 kilometres, a South Korean military official said requesting anonymity because he wasn’t publicly authorised to speak to media on the issue. He said the cause of the explosion wasn’t known.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier said that the launch was made from the Pyongyang region around 9.30am but gave no other details.

Honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute Lee Choon Geun said the missile likely exploded less than a minute after its launch.

People watch a TV screen showing a news programme reporting about North Korea’s missile, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

He said if the missile’s toxic fuels fell on civilian residential areas in North Korea, they would likely cause a major health impact. There was no immediate outside report of such damages in North Korea.

The United States (US) Indo-Pacific Command later said that North Korea had fired a ballistic missile but didn’t say whether it was a failed launch. A command statement said the launch didn’t pose an immediate threat to US territory and its allies but called on North Korea to refrain from further destabilising acts.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that a flight of a ballistic missile has not been confirmed and that Tokyo is working with Washington and Seoul to further analyse what happened.

Experts said past failures still have moved North Korea closer to its goal of acquiring a viable nuclear arsenal that could threaten the American homeland.

Of eight Musudan intermediate-range missiles tests in 2016, only one of those launches was seen by outside analysts as successful, which led to debates of whether North Korea’s path toward ICBMs had been cut off.