A North Korean medium-range missile exploded seconds after it was launched on Sunday, US officials said, a high-profile failure that came hours before Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea, and as an American aircraft supercarrier approaches the Korean Peninsula, reports the AP. The US had good intelligence both before and after the launch, said a White House foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence, who arrived in Seoul to start a 10-day trip to Asia. The official said that had it been a nuclear test, "other actions would have been taken by the US." President Trump was uncharacteristically quiet about the failed launch. In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump and his military team "are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."
The White House believes Sunday's test involved a medium-range ballistic missile that failed within 4-5 seconds after launch, and that it did not involve an intercontinental ballistic missile. The failed launch will sting in Pyongyang because it came a day after one of the biggest North Korean propaganda events of the year—celebrations of the 105th birthday of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather. Pence said North Korea's "provocation" was another reminder of the risks that US and South Korean service members face every day "in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world." Analysts warn that even failed missile launches provide valuable knowledge to North Korea as it tries to build its weapons program. (Read more North Korea stories.)