North Korean test missile explodes on launch

Amid increasing tension with North Korea, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to South Korea on Saturday to begin his first official visit to the Asia-Pacific region.

Pence told reporters near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea that President Donald Trump is hopeful that China will use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its weapons.

Pence made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone Monday at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a USA show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire.

In his ABC interview, McMaster said Trump had directed U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence officials to provide him with options, in concertation with regional allies including China, that could be used "if the North Korea regime refuses to denuclearise".

The missile blew up nearly immediately, providing observers with few clues as to what the regime was attempting to achieve with the launch, beyond a show of force.

Trump's team is weighing options for preventing Kim from acquiring the ability to strike North America with a nuclear weapon.

An agreement on who pays for United States troops in South Korea is due to expire next year, and South Korea - where anti-US sentiment is high - could be asked to pay more.

Mr Trump said China was "working with us" on the issue - the first confirmation the two nations were collaborating. "He continues to develop this program, he continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan", the adviser said. So we'll see how it goes.

NBC News early Friday reported the USA is ready for a strike, having positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles, one just 480 kilometers from the North's nuclear test site, as well as bombers in Guam, citing multiple senior intelligence officials.

Kim's regime has test-fired ballistic missiles five times this year in his quest to develop a device that can carry a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S. He's launched dozens of projectiles and conducted three nuclear tests since coming to power after his father's death in 2011, and claimed in January to be nearly ready to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Beijing, Pyongyang's biggest ally, has come under pressure from Washington to exert more influence on its neighbour.

After a two-month policy review, the Trump administration has settled on a policy toward the North that relies on "maximum pressure and engagement", US officials said Friday.

Along with his visit to Seoul, the vice president's tour will also include stops in Tokyo, Jakarta, Sydney and Hawaii. Trump tweeted on Sunday.

The North Korean government flaunts an increasingly sophisticated arsenal of intercontinental missiles and launches a midrange version, which apparently fails seconds after takeoff.

Solid-fuel missiles can be launched with less preparation and require fewer support vehicles than liquid-fuel missiles.

The issue has been complicated by China's furious opposition to the prospect of having a high-tech radar system on its doorstep, fearing it could partially neutralize its nuclear deterrent. He said: 'The President has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons.

Now, this upcoming trip will offer Pence the opportunity to deliver that message to the region in person. While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the specter of a potential test and an escalated US response has trailed Pence as he undertakes his Asian tour. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday that tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute there to a peaceful resolution.

That test also failed, as there was "no evidence the missile reached flight", a USA official told CNN.

In Seoul, Pence will try to steer clear of South Korea's tumultuous domestic politics ahead of elections next month.

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