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SEOUL, South Korea – A North Korean missile exploded during launch yesterday, US and South Korean officials said, a high-profile failure that comes as a powerful US aircraft super carrier approaches the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.
It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of missile was test-fired from the east coast city of Sinpo. But the failure will sting in Pyongyang because it comes a day after one of the biggest North Korean propaganda events of the year – celebrations of the 105th birth anniversary of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.
The North’s test firing can be seen as a message of defiance to the Trump administration in Washington, coming as it does on the day US Vice President Mike Pence is set to arrive in Seoul for talks on North Korea.
President Donald Trump was uncharacteristically quiet about the failed launch. In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump and his military team “are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The President has no further comment.”
Washington and Seoul will try hard to figure out what exactly North Korea fired. This matters because while North Korea regularly launches short-range missiles, it is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target US troops in Asia and, eventually, the US mainland.
The ultimate goal is to have a full array of nuclear-tipped missiles in response to what Pyongyang says is hostility by Washington and Seoul meant to topple its government. North Korea is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles.
Many outside analysts believe that North Korea has not yet mastered the technology to build warheads small enough to place on long-range missiles, though some civilian experts say North Korea can already build nuclear-tipped shorter range missiles that have South Korea and Japan within its striking range. (AP)