A NORTH Korean missile “blew up almost immediately” on its launch yesterday, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence landed in South Korea for talks on Pyongyang’s increasingly defiant arms program.
The failed launch came a day after a grand military parade in the capital to mark the anniversary of state founder Kim Il Sung’s birth. On display were what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles.
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the “situation on the Korean Peninsula” by phone yesterday, Xinhua news agency said. Yang said the two sides should maintain dialogue.
South Korea said North Korea’s combined show of force “threatened the whole world” but a US foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence appeared to defuse some of the tension, saying the test of what was believed to be a medium-range missile had come as no surprise.
“We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch,” the adviser told reporters.
“It’s a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don’t need to expend any resources against that.”
The adviser, who requested anonymity, said the missile’s flight lasted just four or five seconds.
“It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out.”
Pence is in Seoul at the beginning of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.
The US nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.
A US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy South Korea and the United States. The White House has said Trump has put North Korea “on notice.”
South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, had warned of punitive action if yesterday’s launch led to further provocation.
“North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday’s military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
Pence, addressing an Easter service with American troops in South Korea, said the US commitment to South Korea was unwavering. “Let me assure you under President Trump’s leadership, our resolve has never been stronger. Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger.”
North Korea has warned of a nuclear strike against the US if provoked. It has said it has developed a missile that can strike the US mainland but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the technology.
In Pyongyang yesterday, Rim Chung Ryol, 30, said he had not heard of the test. “If it is a failure, then failure is the mother of success,” he said.
Referring to North Korea’s leader, Ri Gul Chol, 37, said: “Whatever Kim Jong Un decides and instructs will succeed and all the citizens will support him.”