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(2nd LD) Allies seem 'confused' about N. Korea's latest missile firing

All Headlines 11:17 April 06, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 4 paras)
By Lee Chi-dong and Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and American military officials are apparently struggling to determine the exact type of ballistic missile that North Korea fired earlier this week, their public comments and news reports suggested Thursday.

Hours after the launch from the North's eastern coastal area Wednesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said "a type of KN-15 intermediate-range ballistic missile" flew around 60 kilometers into the East Sea.

Citing an initial assessment, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) also said the projectile appears to be a KN-15 ballistic missile, which Pyongyang calls Pukguksong-2. Fired from a land-based facility in the port city of Sinpo, it flew nine minutes, added PACOM.

But foreign news agency quoted unnamed U.S. defense officials as saying later that the missile might be a Scud-ER (extended range).

They were cited as saying that the launch ended in a failure as the missile crashed into the waters after in-flight trouble.

JCS officials were guarded about the news reports.

"There is no additional information to provide other than that a further analysis is under way, as I said yesterday," Col. Roh Jae-cheon, the JCS spokesman, said at a press briefing.

He would not confirm if the North's latest missile firing was a success or a failure.

PACOM also shifted to a more cautious view.

"I think 'medium range ballistic missile' is the most appropriate characterization for yesterday's missile launch," Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for PACOM, said in a brief email to Yonhap News Agency. He would not provide more details.

Usually, Scud-ER is categorized as a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) and KN-15 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

Pyongyang's state media remained silent about Wednesday's provocation.

In February, it test-fired a KN-15 ballistic missile, an upgraded version of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which flew more than 500km into the eastern waters.

A day later, the communist nation announced the "complete success" of the launch.

South Korea's unification ministry said that it is too early to judge the reason why North Korea remains mum about the missile launch.

"As authorities are analyzing details about the missile, we will be able to gauge North Korea's intent (not to report the missile launch) after results of the analysis come out," said a ministry official.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Kyungnam University, raised doubts over North Korea's firing of a type of KN-15 ballistic missile.

"In February, the North fired the Pukguksong-2 on a mobile launcher from an inland place," he said. "I don't understand (the view) that North Korea launched such a missile near on the coast like a trial flight-test."

This photo unveiled by the communist country's Korean Central News Agency on Feb. 13, 2017, shows North Korea's launch of a new type of intermediate-range missile, also known as the Pukguksong-2. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

lcd@yna.co.kr
sooyeon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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