North Korea recently conducted an unsuccessful test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), U.S. and South Korean defense officials revealed.
U.S. Strategic Command detected the attempted launch of a Musudan ballistic missile from the northwestern city of Kusong at around noon Saturday, but the missile exploded shortly after takeoff, as have countless missiles before it.
“We strongly condemn this and North Korea’s recent missile tests, which violate UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology,” Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said in a statement.
“This provocation only serves to increase the international community’s resolve to counter the DPRK’s prohibited activities, including through implementing existing U.N. Security Council sanctions,” he explained.
“We call on North Korea to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations,” Ross added.
“The military maintains heightened vigilance against any provocations by the North,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Sunday.
The intermediate-range Musudan missile is a single-stage missile with an estimated maximum range of approximately 2,500 miles, meaning that it could hit U.S. military installations in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. North Korea’s IRBM can, in theory, carry a 1,100 to 2,600-pound payload. These missiles are road-, mobile-, and ground-launched.
After its fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 9, the North claimed that it had successfully developed the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile. The Musudan IRBM has the potential to be equipped with a nuclear warhead, but at the moment, it is unclear whether or not North Korea actually has this ability.
North Korea has been hit or miss — though mostly miss — with its Musudan missiles. The Musudan IRBM was initially believed to be a mock design for propaganda purposes, but it has since become a focal point for North Korean ballistic missile testing.
North Korea conducted six tests of its Musudan IRBM prior to Saturday’s launch, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project. The Pentagon called its first test on April 15, 2016 “a fiery catastrophic attempt at a launch.” April 28, North Korea fired two Musudan missiles simultaneously, and both exploded shortly after takeoff. North Korea tried again on May 30, but the missile exploded on the launch pad. On June 22, the North conducted its fifth and sixth tests. While one exploded, the other Musudan missile traveled about 620 miles.
Given that the seventh test was unsuccessful, it appears that the North’s one success was a fluke rather than a sign that North Korea has made significant advancements on its Musudan IRBMs. Nonetheless, the launch should not be dismissed. Sooner or later, the North is bound to produce a successful IRBM.
The U.S., South Korea, and even China believe that North Korea’s goal is to eventually develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles.
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