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28 Apr, 2017 21:29

N. Korean ballistic missile fails minutes after launch – S. Korean & US militaries

N. Korean ballistic missile fails minutes after launch – S. Korean & US militaries

Pyongyang has test-fired a ballistic missile that appears to have exploded within minutes after launch and never actually left North Korean airspace, according to the US Pacific Command and South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) early this morning," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement, according to Yonhap.

“It is estimated to have failed,” the JCS said.

The US Pacific Command detected and tracked the missile launch from an area near the Pukchang airfield, but determined that the missile never posed any threat to the United States, as according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) it never left North Korean airspace.

The projectile, presumed to be a KN-17 medium range ballistic missile, appeared to have broken up and exploded “within minutes” of the launch, US officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Missile debris allegedly landed in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, according to a US official who spoke with CNN. An unnamed US official confirmed to NBC News that there was no indication that the test was nuclear.

The Pacific Command stressed that Washington “stands behind our steadfast commitment to the security of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan.”

READ MORE: Trump wants S. Korea to foot $1bn THAAD bill, Seoul says no

The US administration is “aware of the most recent North Korean missile test,” and President Trump was briefed on the launch, the White House said in a short statement.

The reported launch comes amid rising tensions in the region and a US military buildup in response to the North Korean 'nuclear threat.'

It also comes just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the UN Security Council that the military option remains on the table for the US to curb Pyongyang's nuclear program.

“All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” Tillerson told the 15-member international body. “Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”

READ MORE: Pyongyang seeks ASEAN’s help to avert ‘nuclear holocaust’ as Trump warns of ‘major conflict’

Tillerson’s remarks come just a day after US President Donald Trump told Reuters that there is a “chance” of a major conflict in the region if diplomacy fails.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters. “We'd love to solve things diplomatically, but it's very difficult.”

Military solution totally unacceptable, dialogue only viable choice – Russia & China

North Korea’s previous missile launch on April 16 also resulted in failure, according to Washington and Seoul. It took place a day after a huge military parade in Pyongyang. The latest launch marked the 75th missile test during the rule of Kim Jong-un.

In an attempt to deter North Korea from more nuclear and missile tests, the US has sent a group of American warships led by an aircraft carrier to the region. This week, North Korea conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast, just as the US and South Korea were engaged in their annual war games.

As the US continue to push for peace through increasing its military power in the region, China and Russia have been urging both sides to refrain from provocations and belligerent rhetoric, and to find a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis.

Stressing the need to avoid “chaos” on the Korean peninsula, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for cool-headed negotiations over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

“Right now, the situation on the Korean peninsula is under grave tension and at a critical point,” Wang said, ahead of a UN Security Council meeting Friday.

“[The peaceful settlement] of the nuclear issue [on] the Korean peninsula through a dialogue and negotiations represent the only right choice that is practical and viable,” the minister added.

A military solution to the North Korean issue is totally unacceptable and could lead to a terrible catastrophe, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said at a meeting of the UN Security Council.

While accusing North Korea of ignoring the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions which ban nuclear weapons development, Gatilov said that “at the same time, the use of military force is absolutely unacceptable as it is fraught with disastrous consequences for the Korean Peninsula and the entire Northeast Asia.”

READ MORE: China to go on with drills, weapons tests in response to THAAD deployment – Defense Ministry

Pointing out that “bellicose rhetoric paired with an unreasonable show of muscle makes everyone in the world ask themselves if there is going to be a war,” Gatilov said that “it is no secret that in the midst of tensions, any thoughtless step may result in terrible consequences.”