North Korean test missile explodes on launch

A man cycles past an electronic stock board of a securities firm showing Tokyo's Nikkei 225 that fell 62.16 points or 0.3 percent to 18,364.68 in Tokyo Friday

Image: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during an upper house panel session at the Parliament in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 13, 2017.

A North Korean missile "blew up nearly immediately" on its test launch on Sunday, the U.S. Pacific Command said, hours before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North's increasingly defiant arms programme.

U.S. Pacific Command said the North Korean missile "blew up nearly immediately" after its test launch earlier Sunday.

Pence's visit, full of Cold War symbolism, came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula. In a celebratory speech, Workers' Party Central Committee vice chair Choe Ryong-hae said, "The new administration in the U.S. is gravely threatening world peace and security by constantly carrying out military attacks against sovereign states".

After a two-month policy review, the Trump administration settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement", USA officials said Friday.

The North's test firing can be seen as a message of defiance to the Trump administration in Washington, coming as it does on the day U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set to arrive in Seoul for talks on North Korea.

The group said the leaflets contained all the details of the assassination of Kim Jong-nam which occurred at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13, as well as criticism of the Pyongyang regime.

The concerns were exacerbated after a North Korean missile exploded during launch on Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said. "But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless". While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the spectre of a potential test and an escalated USA response has trailed Pence as he undertakes his Asian tour.

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The North has a habit of test-firing missiles to mark major dates such as Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Il Sung, or as gestures of defiance when top USA officials visit the region.

"Let me assure you under President Trump's leadership, our resolve has never been stronger".

But a White House foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence played down Sunday's test, saying the missile - probably a medium-range one - failed after about four to five seconds.

The Trump administration is hoping that China will help rein in North Korea in exchange for other considerations.

Pyongyang's rogue atomic ambitions have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, with Trump vowing a tough stance against the North and threatening unilateral action if China failed to help curb its neighbour's nuclear programme.

A South Korean defense official said the action took place in Sinpo, a port city in eastern North Korea. China is North Korea's only major ally.

Last week, Air China, which was the only Chinese airline that provided flights to North Korea, was reported to have suspended flights from Beijing to Pyongyang starting on Monday. "We will see what happens!" Thousands of US and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry were also deployed last month in their biggest-ever joint military exercises, which prompted North Korea to issue routine threats of attacks on its rival if they show signs of aggression.

Along with the deployment of the USA aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula, thousands of US and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry were deployed last month in their biggest joint military exercises. The country launched a long-range rocket and conducted two nuclear tests previous year, including its most powerful to date.

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