(Adds comment from South Korean military official)
By Ju-min Park
SEOUL, March 22 A North Korean missile appeared
to have exploded on Wednesday just after it was launched, the
U.S. and South Korean militaries said after detecting the latest
in a series of weapons tests by the nuclear-armed state that
have alarmed the region.
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, all but one of
"U.S. 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 U.S. Pacific
Command, said in a statement, referring to an air field in
"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 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 increasing frequency of the missile tests has fuelled a
growing sense of urgency over how to respond to the isolated,
North Korea launched four ballistic missiles from near its
west coast on March 6 and this week conducted a rocket engine
test that its leader, Kim Jong Un, said opened "a new birth" of
its rocket industry.
The latest launch came as the U.S. envoy for North Korea
policy, Joseph Yun, met his South Korean counterpart in Seoul
to discuss a response to the North's weapons programmes.
Just last week U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited
Japan, South Korea and China and how to handle North Korea was a
major issue in his talks.
Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson said a policy of
strategic patience with North Korea had ended and all options,
including a military one, were on the table if North Korea
threatened South Korean or U.S. forces.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of
missile launches since the beginning of last year in defiance of
U.N. resolutions. It is believed to be working to develop
nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump rebuked Kim on Sunday, saying
the North Korean leader was "acting very, very badly".
A senior U.S. official in Washington told Reuters on Monday
that the Trump administration was considering sweeping sanctions
as part of a broad review of measures to counter North Korea's
nuclear and missile threat.
The United States is also deploying an advanced missile-
defence system in South Korea. But China objects to the Terminal
High Altitude Area Defense system, saying its powerful radar can
penetrate deep into its territory, undermining its security.
Undaunted by the possibility of even tougher sanctions aimed
at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system, a
North Korean diplomat said his government would pursue an
"acceleration" of its nuclear and missile programmes.
This includes developing a "pre-emptive first strike
capability" and an inter-continental ballistic missile, said
Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the DPRK (North Korean)
mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
Japan's Nikkei index and South Korean stocks
extended losses slightly after news of a North Korean launch
broke but trade was steady overall.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, Kaori Kaneko and Chris
Gallagher in TOKYO, Jiwon Choi and Christine Kim in SEOUL;
Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)