North Korea readying new mid-range missile test: Report

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides on the spot the underwater test-fire of strategic submarine ballistic missile in this undated photo.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides on the spot the underwater test-fire of strategic submarine ballistic missile in this undated photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea is preparing for a second attempt at test-firing a new medium-range missile, after an initial launch 10 days ago ended in catastrophic failure, South Korean media reported Tuesday (April 26).

Any such launch would be another slap in the face for the international community, after a submarine-launched ballistic missile test last weekend was condemned by the United Nations Security Council.

Existing UN resolutions forbid North Korea from the use of any ballistic missile-related technology.

According to unidentified government sources cited by Yonhap news agency, the South Korean military is "picking up signs which indicate North Korea will likely launch a Musudan missile in the near future".

The Musudan is believed to have an estimated range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000km. The lower range covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.

The missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

A test firing on April 15 ended in what the Pentagon described as "fiery, catastrophic" failure - apparently exploding seconds after launch.

According to the Yonhap sources, North Korea had prepared two Musudans for the test, but the second launch was called off after the first failed.

"The remaining missile now appears to be standing by for launch," one of the sources said.

At a regular press briefing, a Defence Ministry spokesman refused to confirm the report, saying he had "no related intelligence" regarding an imminent Musudan test.

The speculation comes amid growing concerns that Pyongyang is building up to a fifth nuclear test ahead of a rare, ruling party congress early next month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to use the event - the first of its kind in 36 years - to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear and missile weapons program to new heights.