SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea test-fired a mid-range ballistic missile from the western part of its country Saturday, but the launch apparently failed, South Korea and the United States said Saturday.
The test will be condemned by outsiders as yet another step in the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the U.S. mainland.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the North fired the unidentified missile from around Pukchang, which is near the capital Pyongyang, but provided no other details.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the missile 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.
A South Korean military official also said without elaborating that the launch was believed to be a failure. He didn’t want to be named, citing office rules. The official couldn’t immediately confirm how far the missile flew or whether it had exploded shortly after launch.
North Korea routinely test-fires a variety of ballistic missiles, despite United Nations prohibitions, as part of its weapons development. While shorter-range missiles are somewhat routine, there is strong outside worry about each longer-range North Korean ballistic test.
Saturday’s launch comes at a point of particularly high tension. U.S. President Donald Trump took an initial hard line with Pyongyang and sent a U.S. aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters. His diplomats are now taking a softer tone.
On Friday, the United States and China offered starkly different strategies for addressing North Korea’s escalating nuclear threat as Trump’s top diplomat demanded full enforcement of economic sanctions on Pyongyang and urged new penalties. Stepping back from suggestions of U. S. military action, he even offered aid to North Korea if it ends its nuclear weapons program.
The range of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s suggestions, which over a span of 24 hours also included restarting negotiations, reflected America’s failure to halt North Korea’s nuclear advances despite decades of U.S.-led sanctions, military threats and stop-and-go rounds of diplomatic engagement. As the North approaches the capability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, the Trump administration feels it is running out of time.