In a remarkable show of persistence, North Korea on Wednesday fired two suspected powerful new Musudan midrange ballistic missiles, U.S. and South Korean military officials said, its fifth and sixth such attempts since April.

Five of those launches failed, many exploding in midair or crashing, and the sixth flew only about 400 kilometers (250 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, an improvement but still well short of the missile’s potential 3,500-kilometer (2,180-mile) range and not long enough to be classified as intermediate.

Despite the repeated failures, the North’s determination in testing the Musudan worries Washington and its allies, Tokyo and Seoul, because the missile’s range puts much of Asia and the Pacific, including U.S. military bases there, within reach.

Each new test — apparently linked to a command from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — also likely provides valuable insights to the North’s scientists and military officials as they push toward their goal of a nuclear and missile program that can threaten the U.S. mainland. Pyongyang earlier this year conducted a nuclear test, its fourth, and launched a long-range rocket that outsiders say was a cover for a test of banned missile technology.

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Image courtesy of AFP