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Politics

North Korea's missile launches aimed at reinforcing Kim's reign

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A Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile appears at a military parade in Pyongyang in October 2015.   © Kyodo

SEOUL -- North Korea launched two missiles from a base on the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The launch was partly aimed at reinforcing the reign of supreme North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as Pyongyang has fired a total of six missiles since April, analysts said. 

The missiles, launched in the morning from near Wonsan, were believed to be Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the JCS said.

The first launch Wednesday reportedly ended in failure. It was not immediately known whether the second launch was successful.

But the second missile flew the longest-ever distance for a North Korean missile, around 400km, suggesting that the country has improved its missile launching technology.

Japan, South Korea and other countries concerned are growing alarmed about the possibility of more provocative action by North Korea.

On Wednesday, the first missile was launched at 5:58 a.m., followed by the second at 8:05 a.m. The first missile flew around 150-160km before exploding in midair. A number of pieces from it were confirmed to have fallen.

The second missile flew about 400km, prompting U.S. and South Korean forces to speculate on whether it was successful.

The four other missiles that have been fired since April were blown up immediately after launch.

The Musudan missile has a range of 3,000km, which is sufficient to reach the U.S. territory of Guam.

In March, Kim, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, said North Korea would experiment the explosion of nuclear warheads and conduct various test-launches of missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in the near future.

North Korea has since fired Rodong medium-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles in addition to the Musudan.

With the series of missile launches, Pyongyang is trying to further reinforce Kim's influence before the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea's unicameral legislature, is convened next Wednesday, analysts said.

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