North Korea launched a missile early on Sunday morning, but the weapon failed shortly after it was fired from a site near the port city of Sinpo.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said analysts have not yet identified the type of missile that was launched, but it comes just a day after the North Korean military paraded through the streets of Pyongyang with an array of weapons that included what might be a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missile that is capable of striking the American mainland.
The parade was part of celebrations marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the North Korean state, and included a total of 56 missiles of 10 different models.
They included Pukkuksong-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which the regime has been testing off its east coast.
North Korea attempted to test an unidentified type of missile from the Sinpo area, in South Hamkyong Province this morning, but we suspect the launch has failed, the South Korean defence ministry said in a statement.
The North’s previous attempted missile launch, on April 5, also suffered an in-flight failure before the weapon crashed into the Sea of Japan.
There was also an unsuccessful missile launch in late March.
Experts have suggested that the United States may be carrying out “left-of-launch” attacks on the missiles using electromagnetic propagation or cyber attacks, including through infected electronics aboard the weapon that confuse its command and control or targeting systems.
The US. Pacific Command confirmed it had detected and tracked what it assessed to be a North Korean ballistic missile launch at 11:21 a.m. Hawaii time (2121 GMT) on Saturday, said US Navy Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for Pacific Command.
“The missile blew up almost immediately. The type of missile is still being assessed,” he said.
South Korea will hold a national security meeting about the failed launch later this morning.
President Donald Trump, who is at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, has been briefed on the latest developments, Jim Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, said.
North Korean state media has made no comment on the launch, which analysts say is normal for the Pyongyang regime when things go awry.
North Korea is subject to United Nations sanctions because of its determination to pursue its nuclear weapons programme in defiance of the international community.
It has already carried out five nuclear tests, including two last year, as well as multiple missile launches.
A US fleet, headed by the USS Carl Vinson, is approaching the Korean Peninsula.
The deployment of the fleet reflects a tougher line being taken by the US. But at the same time President Trump, who met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, just over a week ago, hopes that Beijing will be able to rein in Pyongyang.
Mr Trump also warned on Twitter that if China was unable to restrain Pyongyang, the US would.
Mike Pence, the US vice president, is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Sunday for talks with the South Korean government over how to deal with Pyongyang’s belligerence.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are concerned by reports of a missile test by North Korea and are monitoring the situation closely.”