North Korea conducted a test launch of three short range ballistic missiles on Saturday, as U.S. and South Korean forces continue to conduct military exercises near their border that American officials claim are defensive in nature. All three of the missiles were said to fail.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2017 is the latest iteration of an annual exercise in which American and South Korean military units take part in simulated defensive operations intended to better prepare them for the possibility of a North Korean invasion. Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime, however, has repeatedly stated that the drills are actually a rehearsal for their own invasion of his reclusive nation. The exercises commenced on Monday and are scheduled to continue for 10 days.
U.S. Pacific Command announced on Saturday that they had tracked the three ballistic missiles launched from the Kangwon province of North Korea, and were quickly able to assess that they posed no threat to the U.S. mainland or Guam – both targets Kim Jong Un has mentioned publicly on multiple occasions in recent months. Plans to launch four long-range ballistic missiles toward Guam were announced by the North Korean government weeks ago, but Kim has apparently opted to hold back on that provocation, as it could easily lead to actual war, rather than continued posturing. The short-range missiles he chose to launch instead bore little threat of being mistaken for the one ICBM platform North Korea has that could cover the expansive distance between the isolated nation and Guam.
The launches took place between 11:49 and 12:19PM Hawaii time. The first and third of the three missile volley reportedly failed mid-flight after covering “approximately 250 kilometers,” the second, which was launched at approximately 12:07PM appeared to blow up almost immediately upon launch, making all three tests complete failures.