North Korea launched a long-range missile Wednesday that may be capable of reaching America, two US officials said. But they said the missile failed after 35 or 40 seconds.
||Soldiers stand near the mock-up of a Scud-B missile displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum near a U.S. military base in Seoul, June 16, 2006. [Reuters]
The military exercise came as the United States celebrated the Fourth of July holiday and launched the space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
"We are urgently consulting with members of the Security Council," said John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The North also fired two other missiles, the U.S. State Department said. Initial intelligence indicates that one was a Scud missile and the other a Rodong. The Scuds are short-range while the Rodong has a range of about 620 miles.
All three landed in the Sea of Japan between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, said the Japanese government.
U.S. State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the long-range missile was the Taepodong-2, North Korea's most advanced missile with a range of up to 9,320 miles. Experts believe a Taepodong-2 could reach the United States with a light payload.
The launch came after weeks of speculation that the North was preparing to test the Taepodong-2 from a site on its northeast coast. The preparations had generated stern warnings from the United States and Japan, which had threatened possible economic sanctions in response.
"North Korea has gone ahead with the launch despite international protest," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said. "That is regrettable from the standpoint of Japan's security, the stability of international society, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
The missiles all landed hundreds of miles away from Japan and there were no reports the missiles caused damage within Japanese territory, Abe said.
He said the first missile was launched at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, or about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday EDT. The two others were launched at bout 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., he said.