North Korea launched three suspected ballistic missiles Saturday, according to the U.S. and South Korean armed forces.
The missiles were launched from an area near Kittaeryong in the eastern province of Kangwon into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, Yonhap News Agency reports, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The missiles reportedly flew just over 150 miles.
Each of the three short-range ballistic missiles failed. The first and the third failed in flight while the second exploded shortly after launch, according to U.S. Pacific Command. The failure of these three missiles brings North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s batting average down from .787 (63 successes, 17 failures) to .759, experts assess.
It is unclear if this was a test or a training exercise, although multiple missiles in rapid succession indicates North Korea was testing the units that would fire the weapons in war, not the weapons themselves. After the North fired four Scud missiles into the sea in March, the Korean People’s Army announced that it was training for strikes on U.S. bases in Japan. North Korea has also simulated attacks on bases in South Korea. Such drills are common during joint military exercises involving U.S. and South Korean troops, like the ongoing Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises. Saturday’s launches may also be in response to South Korean missile testing.
The North has launched around twenty missiles this year, testing numerous new systems, including short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles. Experts believe the North’s new intercontinental ballistic missiles has the ability to strike deep into U.S. territory and deliver nuclear payloads to targets across the continental U.S. While the latest launches failed, it is important to remember that North Korea is not afraid of failure and learns from its mistakes.
The North’s weapons program is still advancing at an alarmingly-accelerated rate.
“We have had no missile launches or provocative act on the part of North Korea” in a month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said recently, hinting that there may be a path to dialogue given the North’s “restraint.” The president expressed a similar sentiment. “I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us,” President Donald Trump said this week. The latest missile launches, even though they were unsuccessful, are all in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
North Korea appears to still be launching missiles for testing and training purposes, part of its long march to a viable deterrence strategy against the U.S. and its allies.
Editor’s Note: U.S. Pacific Command has changed its assessment, please see this article for more details: US Military Changes Its Mind On North Korea’s Failed Missile Launches
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