US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says North Korea’s latest launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile raises the need for a strong missile program for all the allies of Washington in the region.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Carter said Pyongyang’s launch of two Musudan mid-range ballistic missiles earlier in the day, indicated “the need for us to continue to do what we're doing, which is build these missile defenses of various ranges to protect both our South Korean allies, US forces on the Korean Peninsula, Japan and US territory."
According to South Korean and American officials, the test was Pyongyang’s sixth launch of that weapon system and appeared to have traveled 250 miles before crashing into the sea between North Korea and Japan.
The first missile flew 150 kilometers, and is considered a failed launch, said South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee.
The second missile, however, traveled 400 kilometers but the outcome of it is still being analyzed by the South Korean military, the official added.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said the test was successfully carried out with leader Kim Jong-un in attendance.
The Pentagon chief expressed concern that "his one flew for a longer period,” while in previous tests by Pyongyang, the missiles “flew for such a short period of time ... It’s hard to believe that was the objective of the test. "
South Korea claimed the North had attempted four test launches of the missile back in April and May, all of which failed.
“No matter what this or that test went to do, in terms of time of flight, it doesn’t change the plans that we have ... We need to stay ahead of the threat,” Carter added.
The Musudan has a range to reach any part of Japan and the US territory of Guam in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.
The United States and South Korea have begun official talks on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system to the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and carried out the launch of a long-range rocket in February, which it said was aimed at placing an earth observation satellite into orbit.
North Korea has vowed to develop a nuclear arsenal in an effort to protect itself from the US military, which occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.
Washington and Seoul described the practice as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea, which is under harsh UN sanctions over its nuclear tests and missiles launches, says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.