SEOUL • North Korea test-fired a missile that failed immediately after its launch early yesterday, said the United States' and South Korea's militaries, hours after the allies agreed to step up efforts to counter the North's nuclear and missile threats.
The missile was believed to be an intermediate-range Musudan and was launched from the western city of Kusong, where the North attempted but failed to launch the same type of missile last Saturday, said the US Strategic Command and South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The launch came shortly after the US and South Korea agreed in Washington to bolster military and diplomatic efforts to counter the North's nuclear and missile programmes, which the isolated state is pursuing in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The failed missile launch is the eighth attempt in seven months by the North to launch a weapon with a design range of 3,000km that can be fired from road mobile launchers, said the two militaries.
North Korea has been pursuing its nuclear and missile programmes at an unprecedented pace this year. In June, it launched a Musudan missile that flew about 400km, more than half the distance to Japan, in a flight considered a success by officials and experts in South Korea and the US.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, speaking in Washington before the failed launch, said North Korea was nearing the "final stage of nuclear weaponisation" and the allies would mobilise "all tools in the toolkit" to defend themselves.
US aerospace expert John Schilling wrote on the 38 North website that despite the failures, the pace of testing could enable the North to put the Musudan missile into operational service some time next year.
"They are continuing with an aggressive test schedule that involves... demonstrating new operational capabilities. That increases the probability of individual tests failing, but it means they will learn more with each test."