The US military said it had detected an unsuccessful launch of a powerful medium-range missile by North Korea on Saturday, a weapon which is capable of hitting US bases as far away as Guam.
UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from using ballistic missile technology, and this latest test came as the UN Security Council is debating fresh sanctions on Pyongyang following its fifth nuclear test in September.
The US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) said the launch, detected just after midday on Saturday Korea time, was believed to be of a much-hyped Musudan missile which North Korea has now test-fired seven times -- with one partial success.
Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross condemned what he called a clear violation of UN resolutions and urged Pyongyang to refrain from any further actions that might raise already elevated tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Seoul’s defense ministry also confirmed the failed launch, held near an air base in the northwestern city of Kusong in North Korea at 1203 Pyongyang time (0333 GMT).
“This provocation only serves to increase the international community’s resolve to counter (North Korea’s) prohibited activities,” said Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross.
“We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation,” Ross added.
- Pacific threat -
Such launches are usually reported within hours or even minutes by the South Korean and US militaries, but Seoul’s defence ministry refused to say why the announcement came so long after the event.
First unveiled as an indigenous missile at a military parade in Pyongyang in October 2010, the Musudan has a theoretical range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres.
The lower estimate covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.
After a string of five failed launches, North Korea test fired a Musudan in June that flew 400 kilometres into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
That test was hailed by leader Kim Jong-Un as proof of the North’s ability to strike US bases across “the Pacific operation theatre”.