SEOUL—The test-firing of five short-range missiles by North Korea in mid-October was a failure with none striking its intended targets, according to an intelligence source.
The Stalinist nation test-launched five KN-02 missiles on Oct. 12 from its East coast into the Sea of Japan.
With a range of 75 miles (120 kms), the missiles are believed to be an altered version of the Soviet Union's SS-21 missile.
"Two [missiles] fell into the sea right after launch, another two missed the targets, and the last one failed to launch," the source said.
In a separate interview, Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corp., said the launches of five KN-02 missiles may have been an experiment aimed at developing a higher-performing KN-06 missile.
"The KN-02 uses a solid fuel that is different from the liquid fuels used in most of North Korea ’s other missiles, and so North Korea may well be testing some different fuel, engine, or other missile variations, perhaps preparing to apply the KN-02 technology to a larger missile," Bennett said.
He said North Korea continued with the missile tests even after the failure of the first missile launch, to justify and legitimize the launches.
"With North Korea, we usually do not know exactly what they are doing or why they are doing it," Bennett said.
"But they are not a rich country that can afford to spend resources freely, so they appear to take most actions with multiple objectives."
According to Bennett, the missiles tested by Pyongyang apparently flew further or in a manner which suggested they had a longer range (130-160 kms) than previously expected (120 kms).
"It may be that these missiles were thus an upgrade of the KN-02 ... If so, it is not surprising that some of the missiles failed entirely."
But he said the launches violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.
"North Korea is clearly testing international resolve, as it did with its July 4 launches," Bennett added.
"The international community has been developing high hopes that North Korea will return to the six-party talks, and the various countries will be reluctant to do anything that upsets a restart of the six-party talks."
The United Nations panel imposed sanctions on North Korea in July as a penalty for its nuclear and missile tests, banning travel and freezing the assets of 10 people or firms linked to the country’s weapons program.
The U.N. Security Council authorized the sanctions in June, following a series of North Korean missile tests and a second detonation of a nuclear device.
The June resolution called for inspections of ships heading to or from North Korea if they are believed to be carrying goods connected to weapons of mass destruction.
It also expanded the arms embargo against North Korea and further curbed its access to the international financial system.
Original reporting in Korean by Songwu Park and Jungmin Noh. Korean service director: Insop Han. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.