There is a high degree of confidence that North Korea's failed missile launch was not an intercontinental ballistic missile, but the U.S. assessment is still ongoing, a U.S. official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.
A second U.S. official said the missile launch was a land-based one.
North Korea's attempted missile launch on Sunday ended in failure, Yonhap News reported.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea attempted to launch an unidentified missile from the port city of Sinpo on its east coast in the morning, and the launch is presumed to have failed, Yonhap reported.
The U.S. Pacific Command said the apparent missile "blew up almost immediately," The Wall Street Journal reported.
The missile launch attempt came amid rising tensions with the United States that is sending an aircraft-carrier strike group to waters off the Korean Peninsula to deter potential North Korean provocations such as a nuclear test.
The United States, China and other regional powers had feared that North Korea might mark Saturday – the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder and current leader Kim Jong Un’s grandfather – by conducting its sixth nuclear test, or by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile.
President Donald Trump, spending the Easter weekend at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago has been briefed on the failed launch,
Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a short statement saying simply, "The president and his military team are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."
Vice President Mike Pence is due in Seoul at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of the U.S. commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension over North Korea.
The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked.
The North launched a ballistic missile from the same region earlier this month ahead of a summit between the leaders of the United States and China, its key ally, to discuss the North's arms program.
A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about President Donald Trump's plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.
Sinpo, where the launch took place, is the site of a North Korean submarine base and where the North has tested the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) it is developing.
The missile launched earlier this month flew about 40 miles but what U.S. officials said appeared to be a liquid-fuelled, extended-range Scud missile only travelled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control.
"It appears today's launch was already scheduled for re-launching after the earlier test-firing" Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.
"This launch can possibly be a test for a new type of missile or an upgrade," Kim added.
The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering all the necessary technology.
Tension had escalated sharply in the region amid concerns that the North may conduct a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile test launch around the April 15 anniversary it calls the "Day of the Sun."
The White House has said Trump has put the North "on notice" while the possibility of U.S. military action against Pyongyang has gained traction following U.S. strikes against Syria on April 7.
Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and the South's main ally, the United States.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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