After several test launches this month, nuclear-armed North Korea’s latest effort looks to have failed.
A missile is said to have exploded just after take-off on Wednesday.
The launch attempt was made from near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, the same place from where it launched several intermediate-range missiles last year.
“US Pacific Command detected what we assess was a failed North Korean missile launch attempt … in the vicinity of Kalma,” Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, said in a statement, referring to an air field in Wonsan.
“A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch,” Benham said, adding that work was being carried out on a more detailed assessment.
A South Korean military official told Reuters the missile appeared to have exploded just after it was launched.
“It may have exploded right after it took off from a launch pad,” said the military official, who declined to be identified.
It was not clear what type of missile it was. The South Korean defence ministry said it was conducting analysis to determine further details.
The threat remains and the US is deploying the THAAD advanced missile-defence system in South Korea, despite Chinese objections.
The latest launch came as the US envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, met his South Korean counterpart in Seoul to discuss a response to the North’s weapons programmes.
The increasing frequency of the missile tests has fuelled a growing sense of urgency over how to respond to the isolated, unpredictable state.
North Korea launched four ballistic missiles from near its west coast on March 6. And it has just conducted a rocket engine test that leader Kim Jong Un said opened “a new birth” of its rocket industry.
During US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent visit to China, the two sides said they would work together to try to make North Korea take ‘a different course’.