N. Korea fails in missile test: S. Korean military

SEOUL-- North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Saturday which apparently exploded minutes after liftoff, disregarding increased pressure from the Donald Trump administration, according to the South Korean and U.S. militaries.

It is believed to be demonstrating the nuclear-armed nation's resolve to keep upgrading its missile capability amid Washington's talk of more sanctions as a way to resume dialogue before considering alternative options including a military response.

"North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Pukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) in the northeastern direction at around 5:30 a.m. today," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. "It is estimated to have failed."

JCS officials said the projectile flew to a maximum altitude of 71 kilometers.

The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) also said it detected the launch from an airfield there.

"The missile did not leave North Korean territory," its spokesman Cmdr. Dave Benham said in an emailed statement. "The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America."

The allies are analyzing additional information amid speculation that it might be a type of KN-15 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which Pyongyang calls Pukguksong-2, or a Scud-ER (extended range).

The secretive North is seen as bent on developing a new ballistic missile to use solid fuel for swift launches from a mobile launcher.

The allies added they are keeping a close eye on the possibility of additional provocations from the North and maintaining a combined defense posture.

Seoul's foreign ministry denounced Pyongyang's provocation, saying it's a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from conducting any ballistic missile launches.

"The government strongly condemns the ballistic missile provocation, the third already in April alone, in that it poses a grave threat to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the entire international community," the ministry's spokesman Cho June-hyuck said.

He said the provocation proves the North Korean regime's "belligerence and recklessness."

If the North continues to "play with fire," refusing to denuclearize itself, it will only face strong punitive steps in various levels, including those from the U.N. council, he added.

The South's JCS also said, "Our military once again strongly warns North Korea over its constant provocative acts and seriously urges it to stop reckless behavior."

The North will pay the "corresponding price" should it ignore the warning and sticks to a provocative mode, said the JCS.

Saturday's provocation represented another missile launch by the North in two weeks following a failed test from a location on its east coast.

It came as the U.S. naval strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, is approaching waters near the peninsula in a show of force against Pyongyang.

It also coincided with a ministerial meeting at the U.N. Security Council in New York.

Chairing the session, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed the importance of international cooperation in putting more pressure on Pyongyang.

Unveiling its broad policy on North Korea earlier this week, the Trump administration has stated that it would first try to bring the recalcitrant regime to the negotiating table via economic and diplomatic pressure, leaving "all options" on the table.

Trump described the North's latest missile launch as "disrespecting" China and its President Xi Jinping.

"North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!" he wrote in his Twitter message.

Saturday's launch was the communist nation's 50th-known round of ballistic missile firing since its young leader Kim Jong-un took power in late 2011.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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