SEOUL • North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Saturday, but the test failed as the projectile exploded shortly after lift-off, the South Korean military said yesterday.
The North's Hwasong-10 missile, also known as Musudan, was launched at 12.33pm near an airfield in the north-western city of Kusong, the South said in a statement.
Such launches are usually reported within hours or even minutes by the South Korean and US militaries, but Seoul's Defence Ministry did not say why the announcement came so long after the event.
United Nations resolutions prohibit North Korea from using ballistic missile technology, and this latest test came as the UN Security Council was debating fresh sanctions on Pyongyang following its fifth nuclear test last month.
The failed test came on the day Seoul and Washington concluded a large-scale joint naval drill against the North.
The United States deployed the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the Korean Peninsula for the "Invincible Spirit" exercises.
Saturday's test was the first involving the Hwasong-10 since North Korea successfully launched the same missile in June. North Korea has had a spotty record with Hwasong-10 test flights.
The June launch was the first successful test after five failures.
The projectile flew about 402km over the sea between North Korea and Japan, reaching an altitude of 1,413km.
That test alarmed the US and its allies in the region. Their defence officials said the missile's launch at a sharp angle prevented it from falling too close to Japan but still demonstrated its potential to reach an estimated range of more than 3,200km.
The Hwasong-10 is the North's only tested missile with a range long enough to reach US military bases in Guam in the Pacific, and in South Korea and Japan.
After the June test, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un boasted that his country had the capability to strike those bases. But Saturday's failure indicated that North Korea had yet to perfect its Hwasong-10 system.
The Hwasong-10 is a road-mobile missile, so it can be moved around the country and hidden in tunnels, making it more difficult to target in a pre-emptive strike.
North Korea has vowed to build a ballistic missile capable of striking the continental US with a nuclear warhead. The North has never conducted a test flight for such a long-range missile.
The top US diplomat for East Asia said late last month that Washington would speed up deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system to South Korea, given the pace of North Korea's missile tests, and it would be stationed there "as soon as possible".
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK