North Korea has launched a failed test-fire of a ballistic missile from a region north of its capital, defying intense pressure from China and reiterating its ultimate goal of striking the US mainland.
An official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the launch on Saturday, with US military estimating the launch took place at 10.33am on Friday, Hawaii time (6.33am AEST on Saturday).
The US military tracked the missile launch but officials said the missile did not leave North Korean territory and did not pose a threat to North America.
US President Donald Trump interpreted the failed launch as a snub to China, writing on Twitter: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!”
US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the missile was probably a medium-range missile known as a KN-17 and appears 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”.
Mr Tillerson called on member states to “bring maximum economic pressure by severing trade relationships that indirectly fund the DPRK’s nuclear and missile program” and “to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea”.
“[W]e call on UN member states to fully implement commitments that they made regarding North Korea,” he said.
“Those nations which have not fully enforced these resolutions fully discredit this body.”
Meanwhile, North Korea’s state media on Saturday reiterated the country’s goal of developing a nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental US.
“The large territory that is the United States has been entirely exposed to our pre-emptive nuclear strike means,” the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.
The paper said the North revealed two types of new intercontinental ballistic missiles in an April 15 military parade honouring late state founder, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un.
Referring to the US sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to Korean waters, the newspaper said “rendering aircraft carriers useless is not even a problem” for its military.
It said the North displayed three types of ICBMs during the parade, including two new types that were inside the canisters.
Analysts say the North’s existing liquid-fuel ICBMS, including the KN-08 and KN-14, are potentially capable of reaching the US mainland, although the North has never flight-tested them.
Mr Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible and praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping for “trying very hard” to rein in Pyongyang.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been rising as North Korea celebrates a number of key anniversaries, with both sides staging major military drills.
— with agencies