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South Korean government officials said today that they do not believe the most recent North Korean missile test, which exploded shortly after launch, was a failure.
“We don’t believe the mid-air explosion was an accident,” cable news channel YTN quoted a government official as saying. “It’s believed the explosion was a test to develop a nuclear weapon different from existing ones.”
The nuclear-armed isolated country fired a ballistic missile on Saturday morning from near Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province). The missile climbed to 71 kilometers before exploding within North Korean territory, according to the South Korean and U.S. defense ministries. The explosion happened two or three minutes after blast-off.
Military experts say mid- or long-range missiles normally stabilize at 20 or 30 kilometers above ground. In the latest test, the missile climbed to three times the so-called “stabilizing height, which means the chances that any internal mechanical failure caused the explosion were “very low,” according to experts.
The officials also added that they think this test flight is preparation for a future nuclear bomb test that would take place above ground.
Update: This detailed essay takes a look at North Korea’s military capabilities for attacking its neighbors by short and long range artillery and missiles.