N Korean missile blows up on test launch
A North Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its test launch just hours before US Vice President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North’s increasingly defiant arms program.
The failed launch from North Korea’s east coast on Sunday, ignored admonitions from major ally China and came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, in which what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display.
South Korea said the combined show of force “threatened the whole world”.
Pence is due in Seoul at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of the US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.
The US nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.
US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the South and the US.
South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, warned of punitive action if the launch led to further provocations such as a nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.
“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the US if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland US but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology.
The US Pacific Command said the missile “blew up almost immediately”, adding the type of missile was being analysed.
“The North attempted to launch an unidentified missile from near the Sinpo region this morning but it is suspected to have failed,” South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The timing of the test, coinciding with Pence’s trip and a day after the military parade, would suggest deliberate defiance.
Pence had been briefed on the failed launch en route to Seoul and had been in touch with Trump, White House aides said.