North Korea test fired another missile while issuing more threats early Saturday in defiance of the U.S., China and the international community and despite the ongoing U.S. military buildup in the region.
Initial reports were conflicting on what type of missile was fired and whether the launch was a failure. A statement from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a missile was launched from the vicinity of Pukchang in central North Korea at about 5:30 a.m. local time Saturday but "it is estimated to have failed."
Navy Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, appeared to back up the South Korean estimate that the launch was a failure. He said in a statement that the missile "did not leave North Korean territory," suggesting that it broke up in flight."
Other reports said the missile appeared to be a North Korean version of a short or medium-range Scud missile, and that it flew 25-30 miles before splashing down off North Korea's east coast in the Sea of Japan.
A Pentagon official, citing U.S. Pacific Command, would only say that a launch had been detected in North Korea and that it "was not a threat to North America."
The U.S. and South Korea had feared a major North Korean provocation this month -- either missile tests or another underground nuclear test -- as Pyongyang marked two anniversaries. Hours after April 15, the 105th birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung, the regime of Kim Jong-un attempted a missile launch from Sinpo on the east coast but PaCom said the missile blew up shortly after liftoff.
South Korea had been bracing for another provocation on April 25, the 85th anniversary of North Korea's army. At the same time, North Korea was threatening nuclear attacks as the U.S. built up forces in the region.
The nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Michigan armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles arrived at the South Korean port of Busan earlier this week and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and its battle group was expected to be in Korean waters next week.
The North Korean missile launch Saturday came hours after Trump, in a Reuters interview, said that "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely."
At the United Nations Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the world community to put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
He warned that "Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary."
Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com