SEOUL — North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday from a region north of its capital, defying intense pressure from the United States and the reclusive state’s main ally, China, but it appears to have failed, South Korea’s military said.
The US military said it tracked the launch but the missile did not leave North Korean territory and did not pose a threat to North America.
An official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the launch but did not immediately have any further information. Yonhap news agency said the missile appeared to have blown up a few seconds into flight.
Commander Dave Benham, a spokesman for US Pacific Command, said the missile launch took place at 10:33 a.m. Hawaii time (2033 GMT) from near the Pukchang airfield.
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 that appeared to have broken up within minutes of taking off.
The test came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the United Nations that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to “catastrophic consequences.”
US President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Trump praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” to rein in Pyongyang.
But both China and Russia rebuked Washington’s threat of military force at a meeting of the UN Security Council on the matter.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the 15-member council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.
“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the council in blunt remarks that Tillerson later rebuffed.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been rising as North Korea celebrates a number of key anniversaries, with both sides staging major military drills.
In a show of force, the United States is sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday. South Korea’s navy has said it will hold drills with the US strike group.