A North Korean missile "blew up almost immediately" on its test launch yesterday, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice-President Mike Pence landed in South Korea for talks on the North's increasingly defiant arms programme.
The failed launch from North Korea's east coast, ignoring repeated admonitions from major ally China, came a day after it held a grand military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of its founder Kim Il Sung, displaying what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles.
China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the "situation on the Korean peninsula" by phone yesterday, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
Mr Yang said the two sides should maintain dialogue.
South Korea said the North's combined show of force "threatened the whole world" but a US foreign policy adviser travelling with Mr Pence on Air Force Two appeared to defuse some of the tension, saying the test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.
"We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch," the adviser said on condition of anonymity.
"It's a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure.
"We don't need to expend any resources against that."
The adviser said the missile's flight lasted four or five seconds. He said: "It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds, it fizzled out."
South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, warned of punitive action if yesterday's launch led to further provocation. "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.
Mr Pence noted that the US commitment to South Korea was unwavering.
He said: "Let me assure you under President Trump's leadership, our resolve has never been stronger. Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger."
Saturday's parade in the North Korean capital combined with yesterday's failed missile launch made a sixth nuclear test increasingly likely.
If one was carried out, China would be compelled to support new sanctions against North Korea, the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by China's Communist Party paper said in an editorial.\
This article was first published on Apr 17, 2017.
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