North Korea test-fired a missile on Wednesday

David Park, March 22, 2017, 9:44 a.m.

North Korea on Wednesday fired a missile from its east coast in another show of force against South Korea-US military drills and diplomatic meetings, but it appears to have exploded midair, the South Korean and US militaries said. 

The missile, which has not yet been identified, lifted off from the North’s eastern coastal city of Wonsan where it test-fired an intermediate-range Musudan missile last year, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said, adding it is currently carrying out a more detailed analysis.

The US Pacific Command also confirmed the launch attempt. “A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch. We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment. We continue to monitor North Korea‘s actions closely,” spokesperson David Benham said in a statement. 

News reports suggested the explosion may have resulted from a malfunction in the missile’s thrust engine. 

Although the South Korean military failed to detect the launch, due chiefly to the immediate explosion, it was Japan’s Kyodo News that first reported it, citing government sources. The report said Pyongyang might have fired several unverified missiles. 

The latest provocation came as South Korea and the US are staging a joint annual military exercise, with the participation of US strategic assets including a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a nuclear submarine and strategic bombers. The allies have also been stepping up diplomatic consultations in recent weeks, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning in Seoul last week of military action to counter North Korean threats. 

On Wednesday, a B-1B Lancer bomber flew from Japan to join in a bilateral training around the West Sea along with two South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle and two KF-16 fighter jets, which scrambled from the airbases in Daegu and Seosan. 

The Foal Eagle field training exercise involved maneuvering and bombing drills in which the planes drop dummy bombs and entered South Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone, Air Force officials here said. 

“Through the exercise, South Korean and the US Air Force demonstrate strong deterrence capability against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat. We managed to boost the allies’ interoperability and the ability to conduct combined force’s military tactics,” the military said in a statement.

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