April 6, 2017 – A North Korean missile test ended in failure yesterday when the rocket spun out of control and plunged into the ocean in a fiery crash, a senior U.S. defense official said.
The extended-range Scud missile suffered an in-flight failure and fell into the sea off North Korea’s east coast, according to U.S. imagery and assessments, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the launch publicly.
Initial U.S. and South Korean assessments had indicated it was an advanced KN-15 medium-range missile, whose first known test by North Korea was in February. But unlike the KN-15, which uses solid fuel, the missile fired Wednesday used liquid fuel and was fired from a fixed location, rather than a mobile launcher, the official said.
The South Korean military said the missile was fired from land near the east coast city of Sinpo and flew only about 60 kilometers (40 miles).
North Korea is pushing hard to upgrade its weapons systems to cope with what it calls U.S. hostility. Many weapons experts say the North could have a functioning nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. within a few years. North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year.
Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Honolulu, said he was expecting North Korea would do something to coincide with the Trump-Xi summit, perhaps conduct a nuclear test. The missile launch may be a precursor, with more to come as the summit starts Thursday, he said.
“I’ve joked before that they don’t mind being hated but they definitely hate to be ignored,” Cossa said.
Recent satellite imagery shows possible preparations for a test at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, including the laying of communication cables used to initiate a test and collect data.
North Korea’s state media have said the world will soon witness what they called “eventful successes” in the country’s space development. The United States, South Korea and others call North Korea’s space program a cover for its long-range missile development program.