North Korea on Saturday launched a ballistic missile that blew up over land, a spokesman for the US Pacific Command said.
The missile didn’t leave North Korean territory, US Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham said.
A US military assessment found the main part of the missile landed approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Pukchang airfield, a US official told CNN.
“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!,” US President Donald Trump tweeted.
‘Continuously playing with fire’
South Korea condemned the “provocative action,” saying it clearly violated UN Security Council resolutions and constituted a serious threat to peace and security.
“It demonstrates once again the regime’s belligerence and recklessness of categorically disobeying the international community’s resolve to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea,” the foreign ministry said.
“The South Korean government solemnly warns if the regime refuses to denuclearize, while continuously playing with fire against the entire world, it will only face rigorous punitive measures, including those of the UN Security Council.”
But South Korean officials said the test likely was a failure.
“We are analyzing additional information,” the nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “Our military is maintaining a thorough defense posture while keeping a close eye on the possibility of North Korea’s further provocations.”
Japan launched a protest through its diplomatic channel in Beijing, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Suga said Japan won’t tolerate repeated provocative actions by North Korea and asked the Japanese public to remain calm.
White House officials said Trump was briefed as Air Force One returned to Maryland from Atlanta, where Trump earlier addressed a meeting of the National Rifle Association.
The test-fired missile probably was a medium-range ballistic missile called a KN-17, the US official said. The KN-17 is a land-based solid-fuel missile fired from a mobile launcher.
There has been no announcement on North Korean state television, CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang reported.
Analyst: Planned provocation from North Korea
John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, said the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a message for the United States and others.
“This is Kim giving us the finger. Giving China the finger. Giving the UN the finger. I think timing is absolutely planned and preordained in his mind,” he said.
Trump’s administration has delivered a drumbeat of warnings about the dangers of North Korea this week, using presidential statements, an unusual White House briefing for the Senate, and a White House lunch for UN ambassadors to underscore that Pyongyang is a priority.
The US military has moved an aircraft carrier strike group into the region, docked a powerful nuclear submarine in South Korea and staged large military drills with South Korea and Japan.
When asked whether the missile test was provocative, US deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland said North Korea has been “provocative all along.” But “there is reason to be concerned” about North Korea’s missile tests, she added.
On Thursday, the President told Reuters: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.” But Trump said he would prefer a diplomatic resolution.
Washington is hopeful the Chinese can help there.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News on Thursday that China has threatened North Korea with sanctions if the regime conducts a nuclear test. North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test last fall, and observers have said a sixth test could be near.
China remains one of North Korea’s only allies and is responsible for much of the heavily-sanctioned nation’s economy.
In a statement to CNN, North Korea said it is developing nuclear weapons for self-defense and as a deterrent to the United States, according to what the North Korean Mission to the United Nations called an unofficial translation. It did not acknowledge Saturday’s missile test.
Launch follows special UN meeting
North Korea has attempted missile launches on six different dates since Trump was inaugurated in January. In those tests, one missile failed to launch and nine missiles took flight. Some of those missiles reached the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, but Saturday’s test apparently did not.
Kirby said there is no such thing as a failed missile attempt for North Korea’s Kim.
“He learns from every single attempt, and he gets knowledge, and he gets intel. And he takes those lessons learned and just churns them right over into the next one,” Kirby said.
The launch came hours after Tillerson addressed a special meeting at the United Nations, calling for increased pressure on North Korea.
“All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” Tillerson said. “Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se spoke at the UN meeting, advocating for proactive sanctions.
“The council has repeatedly warned that it will take ‘further significant measures, including sanctions’ in the case of future provocations,” he said. “But Pyongyang may still harbor the illusion that the Security Council will only take limited action and that it can disregard and ridicule the authority of the UN.”
Uruguay UN Ambassador Elbio Rosselli condemned the apparent missile test.
The ambassador, who sits on the UN Security Council, said, “That’s very disgraceful.”
He said that it was “against international law and humanity.”
Italy’s ambassador, Sebastiano Cardi, said the UN meeting was “very, very positive.”
“We hope that Pyongyang will refrain from any other further escalation because it is not what we hope for,” said Cardi, who heads the UN committee that could sanction North Korea.
With less than two weeks until South Korea votes for a new president, the spokesman for the front-runner, Moon Jae-in, called on North Korea to stop its military tests.
“We urge the North Korean regime to immediately stop its reckless provocations, give up its nuclear ambitions and cooperate with the international community,” Democratic Party spokesman Park Kwang-on said. “That would be the only way it can save itself, instead of taking the path of destruction.”