SEOUL (Reuters/AFP) - North Korea test-fired a second intermediate-range ballistic missile on Thursday that appeared to have been a failure, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said, hours after another missile crashed seconds after launch.
The Yonhap news agency said the North made a second attempt to fire a Musudan missile in the evening, after a similar test in the early morning ended with the missile plunging to earth. The second launch also appeared to have failed, Yonhap said, citing an unnamed official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It was fired at about 7.26pm local time from the same east coast region where the first was launched earlier on Thursday but likely failed, the official said.
The United States Strategic Command said on Thursday that it had tracked two attempted missile launches by North Korea since Wednesday evening, neither of which posed a threat to North America.
Army Lieutenant-Colonel Martin O'Donnell, a STRATCOM spokesman, said Strategic Command detected and tracked "what we assess were attempted North Korean missile launches at 4.43pm US central daylight time on Wednesday and at 5.24am central daylight time on Thursday.
"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missiles launched from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Lt-Col O'Donnell said in a statement.
If confirmed, North Korea has now made three failed attempts in the past two weeks to test fire a Musudan, which is capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.
The first attempt on April 15 - the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung - ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure, with the missile apparently exploding just after take-off.
The failures come ahead of a landmark party congress that opens next week, South Korean media reported.
South Korean military officials say the North is desperate to register a successful test flight of the Musudan ahead of the party congress, at which leader Kim Jong Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.