US confirms failed North Korea missile test as tensions escalate
North Korea displayed long-range and submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on April 15. Photograph: (Agencia EFE)
A fresh North Korean missile test failed almost immediately after it was launched on Sunday, the US military said amid increasing tensions with the regime over its nuclear weapons ambitions.
"The missile blew up almost immediately," the US Defence Department said of the early morning launch which is likely to be seen as something of an embarrassment for North Korea.
South Korean also confirmed that an "unidentified type of missile" had been launched from Sinpo area in the South Hamkyong Province and that the launch had failed.
Neither country was able to determine immediately what kind of missile was being tested.
The failed missile test came a day after North Korea displayed nearly 60 missiles -- including what is suspected to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile -- at a giant military parade to mark the 105th birthday of its founder Kim Il-Sung.
The parade was held in front of the cameras of invited world media, who were still in Pyongyang when Sunday's test failure was detected.
Geo-spatial images from last week had shown North Korea possibly preparing a nuclear test, to coincide with Kim Il-Sung's anniversary.
The latest missile test attempt comes just hours ahead of a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to Seoul, where the nuclear issue will be top of the agenda at talks with South Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-Ahn.
Pence's first visit to South Korea -- which will be followed by stopovers in Japan, Indonesia and Australia -- was conceived months ago, but could hardly come at a time of higher tension when Pyongyang's rogue atomic ambitions have come into sharp focus.
US President Donald Trump has threatened unilateral action against North Korea if China fails to help curb its neighbour's nuclear programme.
China, the North's sole major ally, and Russia have both urged restraint. Beijing's foreign minister Wang Yi warned on Friday that "conflict could break out at any moment".
Trump, who has said he will prevent Pyongyang from its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile that can hit US, sent an aircraft carrier-led strike group to the Korean peninsula to press his point.
Intelligence officials have warned North Korea could be less than two years away from achieving the ability to strike the continental US, AFP reported.
The North has reiterated its constant refrain that it is ready for "war" with the US, with its army vowing a "merciless" response to any provocation and accusing Trump of entering into a "path of open threat and blackmail".
The North is also reportedly preparing a sixth nuclear test, with satellite images showing its main nuclear site "primed and ready," AFP reported citing specialist US website 38North.
The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against the North since its first nuclear test in 2006 -- all of which have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.
North Korea carried out five nuclear tests – two of them last year – and multiple missile launches, one of which saw three rockets come down in waters provocatively close to Japan last month.
(WION with inputs from AFP)