Officials in South Korea acknowledged a failed missile test on Wednesday after an explosion at a military base left surrounding residents concerned about a possible attack from the North.
The blast at Gangneung Air Base, about 60 miles south of the North Korean border, happened as allies the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States conducted a series of joint tests late on Tuesday, a show of force after Pyongyang’s latest long-range missile launch.
A social media video thought to have been taken by nearby residents showed a missile being launched into the night sky. Another clip appeared to show a large fire at the Gangneung base, but the accident wouldn’t be confirmed for several hours. Newsweek could not independently verify the authenticity of the latter video.
Seoul said four ground-to-ground missiles were fired into the East Sea, or the Sea of Japan, during the tests. The launch of a fifth, a South Korean Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile, failed at the facility in coastal Gangneung, Yonhap News Agency reported.
No injuries were reported from the projectile’s “abnormal fall,” but it was being investigated.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the ROK and U.S. militaries each fired two ATACMS* surface-to-surface missiles during the tests. The misfiring Hyunmoo-2 missile was carrying a warhead, but it didn’t explode, according to Pyongyang watchers NK News. Army Tactical Missile System
South Korean social media channels were abuzz with speculation that Seoul had embargoed reporting on the incident for some six to nine hours until an official statement could be released. Seoul has been criticized over the information vacuum, which led to rumors about a possible attack by the North.
The U.S.-ROK missile tests were meant to signal resolve after the North’s strongman leader, Kim Jong Un, authorized the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan. American and South Korean forces responded similarly after the North’s last launch over Japan in 2017.
Kim’s weapon was said to have traveled some 2,500 miles before landing in the Pacific off eastern Japan. Assessments of its trajectory led the Japanese government to urge residents in Hokkaido, the northernmost of its main islands, and in nearby Aomori prefecture, to seek shelter.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command condemned Pyongyang’s test, its fifth in 10 days, which White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called “dangerous and reckless.”
The North has already launched several dozen missiles in 2022, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile test in five years in March. U.S. officials continue to assess that Pyongyang is likely to resume nuclear tests.
*Army Tactical Missile System