Second North Korean missile launch ends in failure

The South Korean defense ministry announced that an attempted test launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea ended when it exploded almost immediately after lift-off.  The launch was the second test of the Musudan intermediate-range missile in the last few days that ended in failure. 

The South Koreans believe that the test was rushed in order to have some sort of technological success prior to a rare meeting of the Party Congress on May 6.


"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.

"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 hurry," he said.

Thursday's apparent failure marks another setback for the North's young leader Kim Jong Un. A similar missile launched on the April 15 birthday of his grandfather, the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, exploded in what the U.S. Defense Department called a "fiery, catastrophic" failure.

Some experts had predicted that North Korea would wait until it had figured out what went wrong in the previous failed Musudan missile launch before attempting another, a process that could take months and a sign that Thursday's firing was rushed.

However, South Korea's Yonhap news agency had reported on Tuesday that the North appeared to be preparing the second launch of a Musudan, which theoretically has the range to reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam. According to South Korea, the missile has never been successfully flight-tested.

North Korea lists South Korea, the United States and Japan as its main enemies.

South Korea also says the North is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time. It would be its fifth nuclear test.

"Signs for an imminent fifth nuclear test are being detected ahead of North Korea's seventh Party Congress," President Park Geun-hye said at a national security meeting on Thursday.

Failure is not an option in dictatorships, and two very public catastrophes in as many weeks can't help Kim Jong-un's image with the rank-and-file apparatchiks.  Some experts on North Korea believe that Kim will wait until the party congress is underway before conducting the nuke test – a move that would consolidate his position with those charged with maintaining the regime's ironclad control over the population.

Otherwise, Kim seems relatively safe.  He has purged the upper levels of the regime of family rivals as well as potential power centers in the military and the party.  But would you like to be the officers in charge of those failed missile tests right now? 

Like I said, failure is not an option.

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