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North Korea missile test ‘failed’ after launch, Seoul says

A news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on Feb. 27, 2022. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

North Korea’s latest missile test appeared to have “failed” immediately after launch, South Korea’s military said, an incident that comes days after a report said Kim Jong Un’s regime was preparing to fire its first ICBM in five years.

The unidentified projectile appeared to have been launched at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday from an area near Pyongyang’s international airport and is presumed to have failed shortly after it took off, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message. The North Korean projectile failed to “reach its altitude,” a senior JCS official told reporters, adding that authorities were undergoing additional analysis on the specifications of the missile.

The area was used for two launches in the past few weeks that North Korea said were tests for a satellite system. The U.S. said Kim was testing components for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

While details of the launch remain sparse, a mishap could be North Korea’s biggest missile failure since August 2017, when a suspected ballistic missile broke into pieces. The increased North Korean activity comes as a conservative president prepares to take power in South Korea and the world focuses on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The test on Wednesday morning may have been of a ballistic missile, Japanese media including public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unidentified Defense Ministry officials. North Korea typically doesn’t comment on any test until at least a day after the event.

Yonhap News Agency previously reported that North Korea could fire an ICBM as soon as this week, which would be its most serious provocation in five years. Confirmation of such a test can take hours after it occurs.

South Korea and the U.S. had detected signs of an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, Yonhap reported Sunday, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The U.S. said last week that North Korean launches on Feb. 26 and March 4 were intended to test elements of an ICBM that weapons experts believe could be armed with multiple warheads in a bid to overwhelm defenses.

North Korea’s last test of an ICBM was in November 2017, when it fired a Hwasong-15 with a range that experts said could strike all of the U.S. mainland. It was a major breakthrough in Kim’s efforts to deliver a nuclear weapon to any American city.

U.S. officials have said the tests this year of suspected ICBM components point to a launch of the Hwasong-17, which is believed to be the world’s largest road-mobile missile of its kind. North Korea is banned by United Nations resolutions from conducting any ballistic missile tests.

The Hwasong-17 was displayed at a military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party in October 2020. It’s bigger than the Hwasong-15 and likely boasts more powerful engines.

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