The United Nations Security Council is to meet on North Korea at the request of the United States, diplomats say, after the Asian state test-fired what appeared to be two intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
Both missile tests on Thursday failed, a South Korean official said, in a setback for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the run-up to next week’s ruling party congress.
Isolated North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches, in violation of UN resolutions, and tests of military technology ahead of the Workers’ Party congress that begins on May 6.
The tests looked to have been hurried, according to a defence expert in Seoul, and follow a failed launch of a similar missile earlier this month.
The first launch, at about 6.40am local time from near the east coast city of Wonsan, appeared to have been of a Musudan missile with a range of more than 3000km which crashed within seconds, the South Korean defence ministry official said.
Later, at around 7.26pm, the North shot a similar intermediate range missile from the same area, but the launch was also understood to have failed, the official added.
The US Strategic Command said it tracked two attempted North Korean missile launches, neither of which posed a threat to North America.
“They are in a rush to show anything that is successful, to meet the schedule of a political event, the party congress,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum and a policy adviser to the South Korean navy, speaking after the first launch.
“They need to succeed but they keep failing. They didn’t have enough time to fix or technically modify the system, but just shot them because they were in a hurry.”
A similar missile launched on the April 15 birthday anniversary of Kim’s late grandfather, the country’s founder Kim Il Sung, exploded in what the US Defence Department called a “fiery, catastrophic” failure.