North Korea attempted to launch a new missile early Sunday, but the device "blew up almost immediately," the U.S. military said.
The Pentagon and South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it wasn’t immediately clear what type of missile was involved. The failed launch from the east coast city of Sinpo came a day after tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers goose-stepped and new missiles and other military hardware were wheeled out in a show of military strength and defiance during a celebratory parade in the capital of Pyongyang.
President Trump had warned the isolated regime to avoid nuclear or missile tests or face unspecified consequences.
The parade marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of the regime's founder, Kim Il-Sung, a date celebrated as the “Day of the Sun” in North Korea. He is the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-Un, who was on hand to witness the spectacle.
North Korea has warned that it was prepared to strike back against the United States and South Korea as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula. Last weekend, the U.S. sent aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to nearby waters as heated words ratcheted up.
"Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive," a spokesperson for North Korea’s military said ahead of the parade, according to the state-run KCNA news agency.
President Trump has also stirred the pot with his Twitter feed. On April 11, he tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble,” and said China’s help would be welcomed, but that the U.S. was prepared to solve the problem without Beijing, which has served a the North's economic lifeline.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted again that the U.S., along with its allies, was prepared to deal with North Korea.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol told The Associated Press on Friday that "Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words.”
Ryol threatened in the interview that North Korea was ready to go war against the U.S. He also said the communist state would continue to develop its nuclear weapons program and conduct tests as its leadership saw fit. North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006.
"We've got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike," he said.
A live broadcast on North Korean state television Saturday showed Kim Jong-Un, 33, wearing a black suit and saluting as tanks, missiles and other hardware rolled through Kim Il-Sung Square.
Observers paid close attention to the missiles and launchers that were displayed during the colorful military spectacle. South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted experts as saying that North Korea unveiled a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) during the parade, one that appeared longer than existing KN-08 or KN-14 ICBMs. The secretive state also showed off a submarine-launched missile that it successfully fired last year.
Analysts said that the weapons on display raised new questions about North Korea’s capacities going forward. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., called the show “a bewildering array of new missile-related hardware.”
“We saw three different launchers for ICBMs,” Lewis said. “Does that mean there are three different ICBM programs? It is hard to say. But in a way, that's the point.”
What is clear, however, is that North Korea intends to keep working on its nuclear strike capabilities, Lewis said. “The North Koreans are serious about building a nuclear force that can threaten U.S. forces in South Korea, Japan and the continental United States. We saw a large number of the programs begun under Kim Jong-Un to do just that.”
Trump has warned the North that the U.S. will not allow it to develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States. Analysts believe the regime is making progress toward that goal.
China, the only country with leverage over its neighbor to the south, has warned both the U.S. and North Korea to lower their aggressive rhetoric. China is North Korea's main trading partner and Chinese companies produce military components for the North.
Military conflict in the region would put at risk 20 million South Koreans living nearby in the capital of Seoul, along with nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
Recently the U.S. began installing a missile defense system in South Korea that has produced protests from China, which sees North Korea as a useful buffer between it and U.S. ally South Korea.