A North Korean missile test Wednesday morning ended in catastrophic failure almost immediately after it launched, U.S. military officials and South Korea said.
“A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said in a statement following the event. “US Pacific Command detected what we assess was a failed North Korean missile launch attempt … in the vicinity of Kalma.”
Kalma is an airfield in the North Korean city of Wonsan, located on the eastern coast of the country.
The failed launch comes one day after North Korea threatened retaliation over U.S. and South Korean military drills while touting the capabilities of its nuclear force as a “treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence.”
“South Korea and the US are aware of the missile launch and to their knowledge North Korea’s missile was not successfully launched,” added South Korea’s Ministry of Defense in a statement.
Details on the type of missile that North Korea fired, or why it failed, has yet to be released. The U.S. Pacific Command said it was working with interagency partners for a more detailed assessment of the missile failure.
The latest tests have the entire region on edge.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday called on all nations with interest in the Korean Peninsula to “exercise restraint.”
“The current situation on the peninsula is extremely tense — ‘everyone with his dagger drawn’ would be a fair description,” Chunying said.
This marks the second missile launch by North Korea. Kim Jung-Un’s regime launched four ballistic missiles on March 6, three of them landing less than 200 miles off the coast of Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after that launch that North Korea’s actions were in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Experts say the missile tests are a “signal” to South Korea and the United States for the continuation of the annual “Foal Eagle” military exercises, which take place March 1 through April 30.
“The North Koreans respond to [the drills] almost every year with some kind of outlash or provocation or something like that,” said Robert Kelly, associate professor of political science at Pusan National University. “Missile tests are a nice way to send a signal.”
What’s alarming about North Korea’s missile launches this year is the rapid turnaround between each successive launch.
“They did a launch [in February], they’re now launching more in 30 days. That’s a third of the time they used to need,” Carl Schuster told CNN after the missile tests in early March.
Also this week, North Korea boasted it had cleared the way for “a new birth” of its rocket industry following the test of a long-range missile engine at the Tonchang-ri rocket launch station.
President Donald Trump blasted Kim Jong-Un for “behaving very badly” in a tweet following the recent provocations by the Hermit Kingdom.
North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017
The president believes the “greatest immediate threat” to the U.S. is North Korea and its growing nuclear capabilities, according to senior administration officials.
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