(8th LD) N. Korea's ICBM launch apparently failed; more SRBM shots follow allies' decision to extend air drills
(ATTN: ADDS N. Korea's statement, additional SRBM launches in paras 12-15; CHANGES headline)
By Kim Soo-yeon and Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Nov. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), believed to be a Hwasong-17, apparently ended in failure Thursday, a defense source here said, as the Kim Jong-un regime has intensified its military threats, especially amid large-scale joint air drills of South Korea and the United States.
The missile was launched from the Sunan area in Pyongyang at around 7:40 a.m. and flew about 760 kilometers at an apogee of around 1,920 km at a top speed of Mach 15, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Following the second stage separation, however, the ICBM seems to have failed in normal flight, the source said later on background, adding it is presumed to be a Hwasong-17 type.
It marked the North's seventh firing of an ICBM this year and the first since late May.
The JCS also said it detected the firing of two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) from Kaechon in South Pyongan Province from around 8:39 a.m.
They traveled some 330 km at a maximum altitude of around 70 km at a top speed of Mach 5, it said.
The North is viewed as having again sought to demonstrate its military might in protest against the five-day massive air exercise of the allies that kicked off Monday.
But Pyongyang's continued major provocations have led the allies to extend the Vigilant Storm exercise.
The South's Air Force made the announcement on the decision, hours after the North's ICBM firing, without immediately revealing when the training is to finish. It said the allies are in consultations on details.
An informed source said that Seoul's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made the extension proposal to the U.S. side while in Washington, D.C. to attend the allies' annual defense ministerial talks, called the Security Consultative Meeting, slated for Thursday (local time).
The proposal followed President Yoon Suk-yeol's directive to take a step in response to the latest North Korean provocation.
In the wake of the announcement of the decision to extend the drills, the North shot three additional SRBMs into the East Sea between around 9:35 p.m. and 9:49 p.m., according to the JCS.
The move came about an hour after a top North Korean official described the allies' decision as an "irrevocable and awful mistake."
"It is a very dangerous and false choice," Pak Jong-chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, said in an English-language statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"The irresponsible decision of the U.S. and South Korea is shoving the present situation caused by provocative military acts of the allied forces to an uncontrollable phase," he added. "The U.S. and South Korea will get to know what an irrevocable and awful mistake they made."
Meanwhile, JCS Chairman Gen. Kim Seung-kyum and Gen. Paul LaCamera, who leads the U.S. Forces Korea, had virtual consultations and reaffirmed a commitment to a stronger combined defense posture against "any North Korean threats and provocations."
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement as well: "The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from any further unlawful and destabilizing acts ... The U.S. commitments to the defense of the ROK and Japan remain ironclad."
DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and ROK stands for the South's official name, the Republic of Korea.
The North's provocations came a day after it shot more than two dozen missiles, the biggest-ever barrage in a single day. One of them flew southward past the de facto maritime inter-Korean border for the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea and the U.S. have mobilized more than 240 aircraft, which include stealth fighter jets, for the Vigilant Storm practice staged over Korea.
Pyongyang has long denounced joint military drills between Seoul and Washington as a rehearsal for invasion. The allies stress the exercises are defensive in nature.
Pak Jong-chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, warned Wednesday that Seoul and Washington will "pay the most horrible price in history" if they decide to attack the North.
North Korea's foreign ministry earlier warned of "more powerful follow-up measures" against what it called Washington's "ceaseless and reckless" military provocations.
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