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North Korea’s missile launch fails, U.S. military says

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SEOUL, South Korea — A ballistic missile launched early Saturday by North Korea in defiance of international pressure and at a time of heightened regional tensions appears to have failed.

The missile blew up over land in North Korean territory, said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command.

President Donald Trump cast the launch as a direct snub against China, one of North Korea’s only allies and a nation seen by the Trump administration as a potential U.S. ally in efforts to stamp out Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted.

Pyongyang’s show of defiance — at a time when its military ambition has reached its highest level in years — came just hours after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed a special meeting at the United Nations and called for increased pressure on North Korea.

“All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” Tillerson said. “Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”

The launch was swiftly condemned by South Korean and Japanese leaders.

South Korea called it a “provocative action,” saying it clearly violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and constituted a serious threat to peace and security.

“It demonstrates once again the regime’s belligerence and recklessness of categorically disobeying the international community’s resolve to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea,” the foreign ministry said.

South Korean officials also said the test likely was a failure.

“We are analyzing additional information,” the nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “Our military is maintaining a thorough defense posture while keeping a close eye on the possibility of North Korea’s further provocations.”

Japan launched a protest through its diplomatic channel in Beijing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Japan won’t tolerate repeated provocative actions by North Korea and asked the Japanese public to remain calm, Suga said.

Tokyo’s subway operator temporarily halted train service Saturday morning after the missile launch, the Tokyo Metro said.

All trains stopped running for 10 minutes, then resumed service after it was confirmed the launch had no impact on Japan’s safety. An estimated 13,000 people were affected, an official said.

White House officials said Trump was briefed as Air Force One returned to Maryland from Atlanta, where the president earlier addressed a meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The test-fired missile probably was a medium-range ballistic missile called a KN-17, a U.S. official said. The KN-17 is a land-based solid-fuel missile fired from a mobile launcher.

A U.S. military assessment found the main part of the missile landed about 22 miles from Pukchang airfield, the US official said.