SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — A North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch Saturday, South Korea and the United States said, the third test-fire flop just this month but a clear message of defiance as a U.S. supercarrier conducts drills in nearby waters.
North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they’re seen as part of the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the U.S. mainland. The latest test came as U.S. officials pivoted from a hard line to diplomacy at the U.N. in an effort to address what may be Washington’s most pressing foreign policy challenge.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter, “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China &its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” He did not answer reporters’ questions about the missile launch upon returning to the White House from a day trip to Atlanta.
The timing of the North’s test was striking: Only hours earlier the U.N. Security Council held a ministerial meeting on Pyongyang’s escalating weapons program. North Korean officials boycotted the meeting, which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 71 kilometres (44 miles) before it apparently failed.
It didn’t immediately provide an estimate on how far the missile flew, but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said it was likely a medium-range KN-17 ballistic missile. It broke up a couple minutes after the launch, and the pieces fell into the Sea of Japan.
Analysts say the KN-17 is a new Scud-type missile developed by North Korea. The North fired the same type of missile April 16, just a day after a massive military parade.