SEOUL, South Korea — Three North Korea short-range ballistic missiles failed on Saturday, a temporary blow to Pyongyang’s rapid nuclear and missile expansion, U.S. military officials said.
The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that two of the North’s missiles failed in flight after an unspecified distance, and another appeared to have blown up immediately. It added that the missile posed no threat to the U.S. territory of Guam, which the North had previously warned it would fire missiles toward.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the projectiles fired from the North’s eastern coast flew about 250 kilometers (155 miles), though it did not mention any failures. It said South Korea and U.S. militaries were analyzing the launch and didn’t immediately provide more details.
South Korea’s presidential office held a National Security Council meeting to discuss the missiles, which are the first known launches since July, when the North successfully flight tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles that analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
The rival Koreas recently saw their always testy relationship get worse after Pyongyang and President Donald Trump traded warlike threats. Trump warned that he would unleash “fire and fury” if the North continued its threats.
The latest launch comes during an annual joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea that the North condemns as an invasion rehearsal, and weeks after Pyongyang threatened to lob missiles toward Guam.
North Korea’s state media earlier Saturday said that leader Kim Jong Un inspected a special operation forces training of the country’s army that simulated attacks on South Korean islands along the countries’ western sea border in what appeared to be in response to the ongoing U.S.-South Korea war games.
Kim reportedly told his troops that they “should think of mercilessly wiping out the enemy with arms only and occupying Seoul at one go and the southern half of Korea.”
The Korean Central News Agency said that the “target striking contest” involved war planes, multiple-rocket launchers and self-propelled guns that attacked targets meant to represent South Korea’s Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands before special operation combatants “landed by surprise” on rubber boats.
The border islands have occasionally seen military skirmishes between the rivals, including a North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong in 2010 that left two South Korean marines and two civilians dead.