North Korean Missile Launch Failed, South’s Military Says

North Korea tried but failed to launch an intermediate-range missile Friday, the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, the South Korean military said.

“North Korea appears to have tried a missile launch from the East Sea [Sea of Japan] area early morning today, but it is presumed to have failed,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The missile appeared to be a Musudan, also known as a BM-25, the Joint Chiefs said. South Korea warned Thursday that it had spotted a mobile launcher carrying one or two Musudan ballistic missiles near Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast.

A U.S. defense official said that the missile launched was “detected and tracked” by U.S. Strategic Command systems. “We assess that the launch failed,” he said.

The Musudan is an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of traveling 1,500 to 2,500 miles — putting the U.S. territory of Guam within reach — and of carrying a 1.3-ton nuclear warhead, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

North Korea has displayed the Musudan at its military parades and is believed to have supplied assembly kits for the missile to Iran, but it had never tested this model of missile before.

Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, said that the failure would “reinforce the persistent denial” about North Korea’s capabilities.

“But in fact, they will have learned a lot from this launch. Not as much as they would have learned if it had succeeded, but still something,” Lewis said.

The Musudan uses the same sort of engine as the submarine-launched ballistic missile that North Korea tested last year but which also failed.

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