North Korea missile launch fails in embarrassing setback for leader Kim

Yonhap said the failed launch appeared to be a Musudan missile with a range of more than 3,000 km.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un being briefed during an atmospheric re-entry environment simulation of a locally manufactured heat-resistant section of a ballistic missile warhead part at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Picture: AFP.

SEOUL - North Korea attempted to launch an intermediate range ballistic missile off the country's east coast on Friday but the launch failed, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

The failed launch follows North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the next month, which led to fresh UN sanctions.

Yonhap said the failed launch appeared to be a Musudan missile with a range of more than 3,000 km.

An official at the South Korean defense ministry said North Korea was attempting a missile launch early on Friday morning but the launch appeared to have failed, however, the official could not confirm the type of missile.

The US military detected and tracked the missile launch at 0533 Korea time, or 2033 GMT on Thursday, a Defense Department spokesman said in a statement. The missile did not pose a threat to North America, the statement said.

A US State Department official said: "We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations."

The United States, which has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, said on Thursday it was aware of reports that North Korea was preparing to test intermediate-range missiles and was closely monitoring the Korean Peninsula.

Friday is the anniversary of North Korean founding president Kim Il Sung's birthday, 15 April, and is widely celebrated in the isolated country. In 2012, the day was marked by a long range rocket launch attempt, which also failed.

On Thursday, North Korea deployed one or two Musudan ballistic missiles on its east coast in apparent preparation for the launch, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing multiple South Korean government sources.

The Musudan missile, with a design range of more than 3,000 km, is not known to have been flight-tested, according to South Korean defense ministry and experts.

Some experts have said North Korea may choose to test-fire the Musudan in the near future as it tries to build an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to put the mainland United States within range.

North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States, often fires missiles during periods of tension in the region or when it comes under pressure to curb its defiance and abandon its weapons programs.