US defense agencies detected an attempted missile launch in western North Korea late Friday, near the city of Kusong, Reuters reports. The object—believed to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile—failed immediately after launch, per South Korea's military. American and South Korean defense agencies declined to provide any further details, but both governments condemned the act as unprovoked aggression. The missile test is the first since North Korea's latest underground nuclear test, which took place on Sept. 9.
While it's murky whether North Korea actually has nuclear warheads, so far it hasn't verifiably demonstrated the technical capability, even if it does have them, to mount those weapons on long-range missiles that could strike the US mainland. The missile launch follows a week of joint US-South Korean war games, which the North has called a dry run for an invasion, Stars and Stripes reports. The presence of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which arrived in Busan, South Korea, hours before the failed missile launch, lends a further show of muscle to repeated US commitments to defend South Korea against northern aggression. (Read more North Korea stories.)