Seoul: North Korea tried and failed yesterday to test-fire what appeared to be a medium-range missile on the birthday of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung, the United States said, denouncing the move as another needless provocation.

The missile disappeared from surveillance radar a few seconds after its launch and is believed to have exploded midair, according to a Seoul intelligence official quoted by Yonhap news agency. There had been widespread intelligence reports in recent days that the North was preparing for the first-ever flight test of its Musudan missile, which is believed to be capable of striking US bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

The US and South Korean militaries detected and tracked the early morning test. The April 15 birthday of Kim Il-Sung — the grandfather of Kim Jong-Un — is a major public holiday in North Korea, where key political anniversaries are often marked with displays of military muscle.