North Korea tried and failed to launch a test missile on Sunday, hours after showing off its latest military hardware at a Pyongyang parade.
Leader Kim Jong-un was widely expected to attempt a launch around Saturday’s anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder.
Pyongyang has conducted several missile and nuclear tests, despite UN sanctions, and has regularly threatened to destroy the South and the United States.
The latest projectile “blew up almost immediately” according to the US Pacific Command after a
failed launch near Sinpo, on North Korea’s east coast.
An unnamed US official says it was not thought to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile.
But the timing of the test, as American Vice President Mike Pence was travelling to the region and following the North Korean military parade in which what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display, suggests deliberate defiance.
South Korea said the combined show of force “threatened the whole world”.
Pence’s trip to South Korea is described by his aides as a sign of US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.
The Trump administration has also sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula, amid reports that the US is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons if it is sure the North is about to stage another nuclear weapons test.
Pyongyang has warned it is ready to “respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare”.
President Donald Trump and his military team are aware of the failed launch, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement, adding that Trump has no further comment on the matter.