North Korea attempted to fire a missile from its east coast on Tuesday but the launch appears to have failed, South Korean officials said, in what would be the latest in a string of unsuccessful ballistic missile tests by the isolated country.
The launch attempt took place at around 5:20 a.m. Seoul time (4.20 p.m. ET), said the officials, who asked not to be identified. They did not elaborate.
Tension in Northeast Asia has been high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.
Japan put its military alert on Monday for a possible North Korean missile launch.
“North Korea shows no sign of abandoning the development of nuclear missiles and so we will continue to work closely with the U.S. and South Korea in response and maintain a close watch,” Japanese Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani told a media briefing.
North Korea appeared to have attempted to launch an intermediate-range Musudan missile, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said.
North Korea attempted three test launches of the Musudan in April, all of which failed, U.S. and South Korean officials have said.
Yonhap quoted a South Korean government source as saying the missile was likely to have exploded at about the time it lifted off from a mobile launcher.
China, North Korea’s only major ally, called for the cessation of any action that would exacerbate tension.
“The situation on the peninsula remains complex and sensitive,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing when asked about the launch.
“We think that all sides should avoid any actions that further worsen tensions.”
China has been angered by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and signed up to tough U.N. sanctions against its reclusive neighbor in March.