US Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in South Korea at the start of his 10-day Asia trip amid increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. His visit comes just after North Korea's failed missile launch.
Mike Pence landed in the South Korea capital of Seoul shortly after North Korea attempted a missile launch from the coastal city of Sinpo on Sunday morning.
Sinpo is the site of a North Korean submarine base and where the North has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile it is developing.
The US military said the missile "blew up almost immediately" during a test launch.
"The missile blew up almost immediately," said David Benham, a spokesman with the US Pacific Command. "The type of missile is still being assessed."
US Broadcaster, CNN, cited US officials as saying that the vice president was briefed on the failed test.
Shortly after he arrived in Seoul, Pence, the son of a Korean War veteran, was joined by his wife Karen as he placed a wreath at the National Cemetery during a brief ceremony. Pence met with US and South Korean troops for Easter Sunday services and a dinner.
Addressing the US troops at the fellowship meal, Pence said that Washington's "resolve has never been stronger" in these "challenging times in Asia pacific."
"Freedom will always prevail on this Peninsula," the vice president said.
US President Donald Trump and his military team were aware of North Korea's missile launch, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement on Sunday. He added that Trump had no further comment to make on the matter.
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula over the phone on Sunday.
'Lasted for seconds'
According to a US foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence on Air Force Two, South Korea apparently tested a medium-range missile.
"We had good intelligence before the launch and good intelligence after the launch," the adviser told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.
"It's a failed test. It follows another failed test. So really no need to reinforce their failure. We don't need to expend any resources against that."
The adviser said the flight lasted four or five seconds. "It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out," he said.
Tensions with Washington
The failed launch comes a day after North Korea displayed nearly 60 missiles at a large military parade to mark the anniversary of the country's late founder, Kim Il Sung. One of the missiles showcased is believed to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
With the US Navy deployed near the Korean Peninsula, and experts speculating that Pyongyang was preparing another nuclear test, tensions have been rising in recent days.
"We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of nuclear attack," Choe Ryong Hae, a top North Korean officer, said. Choe is considered by outside analysts to be the country's most powerful official after the leader Kim Jong Un.
US President Donald Trump's recent bombings in Syria and Afghanistan have stoked fears about a possible US attack on North Korea. The communist country has been regularly conducting nuclear and missile tests defying United Nations' resolutions and sanctions.
Previously, the North Korean military threatened to unleash a "merciless" response against American targets, including the naval task force the US recently deployed.
"The closer such big targets as nuclear powered aircraft carriers come, the greater would be the effect of merciless strikes," according to the statement carried by the KCNA news agency. At the same time, the army urged Washington to "come to its senses" and find a "proper" solution to the current stand-off.
Intelligence officials have warned that the North could achieve the ability to strike the mainland United States in two years.
The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against Pyongyang since its first nuclear test in 2006. However, none of the sanctions have deterred the North's pursuit of weapons that it insists are for defense.
shs/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)