North Korea missile launch fails on late founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday

North Korea tried and failed Friday to test-fire what appeared to be a medium-range missile on the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung, the United States said, denouncing the move as another needless provocation.

The missile disappeared from surveillance radar a few seconds after its launch and is believed to have exploded midair, according to a Seoul intelligence official quoted by Yonhap news agency.

There had been widespread intelligence reports in recent days that the North was preparing for the first-ever flight test of its Musudan missile, which is believed to be capable of striking U.S. bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries both detected and tracked the early morning test. A U.S. defense official said the missile was "presumably" a Musudan.

On board a U.S. aircraft carrier in the South China Sea as part of a regional tour, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter hit out at North Korea for raising tensions.

"The North Korean missile launch, which we assessed was unsuccessful, was nevertheless another provocation by North Korea in a region that doesn't need that kind of behavior," Carter told reporters.

The April 15 birthday of Kim Il Sung - the grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un - is a major public holiday in North Korea, where key political anniversaries are often marked with displays of military muscle.

The country is also gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress next month, at which Kim Jong Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons program to new heights.

Pyongyang has hailed a series of achievements in recent months, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, developing a warhead that can withstand atmospheric re-entry, and building a solid-fuel missile engine.

Last week, it said it had successfully tested an engine designed for an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would "guarantee" an eventual nuclear strike on the U.S. mainland.

Source: China Post

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