On Sunday morning, North Korea attempted to launch a ballistic missile from near Sinpo, on its eastern coast, in central South Hamgyŏng province. The launch failed shortly after launch, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“U.S. Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:21 a.m. Hawaii time April 15,” Commander Dave Benham, a spokesperson for U.S. Pacific Command, noted in a statement.
“The missile blew up almost immediately. The type of missile is still being assessed.”
The attempted missile launch comes a day after North Korea staged a massive military parade in which it demonstrated new configurations of its existing ballistic missile arsenal. It also showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters on transporter erector launchers and mobile erector launchers.
Sunday’s attempted launch also comes as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence embarks on a four-nation Asia tour that will include stops in South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Indonesia. In South Korea and Japan, Pence will discuss North Korea’s continuing provocations with senior officials.
Sunday’s incident is the fifth launch or attempted launch by North Korea this year. North Korea’s first launch of the year was of the Pukkuksong-2 solid-fuel medium-range ballistic missile. Pyongyang additionally launched a salvo of four ER-Scuds in March.
More recently, Pyongyang saw one missile launch failure shortly after launch. On March 22, Pyongyang attempted a launch from an air base in Wonsan that failed shortly after launch. The type of missile was not verified by PACOM, which noted then that the missile “appears to have exploded within seconds of launch.”
Similarly, on April 4, days before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the United States for his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump, North Korea launched what PACOM assessed as an older Scud missile, which “pinwheeled” in flight. The missile landed in the Sea of Japan, but did not fly to full range.
It’s unclear if the March 22 Wonsan test and Sunday’s test are of the same projectile. North Korea faced similar launch difficulties in autumn 2016, when two launches failed shortly after launch near Kusong.