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North Korea ballistic missile test fails, NBC News confirms

  • North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Saturday, but a U.S. official confirmed to NBC News that the test failed.
  • U.S. Pacific Command said the missile did not leave North Korean territory.
  • Japan calls on U.S. and China to increase pressure on Pyongyang
  • China's Xinhua warns North Korea and the U.S. to work together to avoid confrontation.

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Saturday in local time, but the missile exploded soon after launch, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials said that the failed test involved a short-range, non-nuclear missile, which would be able to hit Seoul, but not Japan.

One official told NBC that the U.S. had warning of the test and watched it closely.

A South Korean military official confirmed to NBC that the test occurred around 5:30 a.m. local time. The official said the missile traveled northeast towards the East Sea.

"Currently, we are closely monitoring North Korea's further military provocation and are totally ready to meet any and all kinds of provocation," the official told NBC.

U.S. Pacific Command said the missile did not leave North Korean territory, adding that the North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the launch did not pose a threat to North America.

Pacific Command said it "stands behind our steadfast commitment to the security of our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan."

The White House said that the administration is aware of the test and that President Donald Trump has been briefed.

Later Friday, Trump tweeted about the missile test.

Korean news service Yonhap first reported the news.

Saturday's missile test comes as the United States reconsiders its strategy in dealing with the isolated nation.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the U.S. and China to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

"Despite strong warnings by the international community, North Korea today went through its ballistic missile launch. It is a grave threat to our country. This is absolutely not acceptable. We strongly condemn such acts," Abe told reporters, speaking through a translator in London on Saturday.

China's Xinhua news agency said North Korea and the United States need to work together to avoid confrontation.

"If both sides fail to make such necessary concessions, then not only will the two countries, but the whole region and the whole world end up paying a heavy price for a possible confrontation."

Earlier in April, North Korea conducted a missile test a day after the country held a military parade celebrating leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather, Kim Il-sung. In that failed test launch, U.S. Pacific Command said the missile "blew up almost immediately."

In an interview with Reuters published late Thursday, Trump said "major, major" conflict with North Korea is possible, but that he would prefer a diplomatic solution.

Trump also told Reuters that he wants South Korea to pay for the $1 billion missile defense system. The system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), is designed to protect South Korea and Japan from missile attack, and it could be operational as soon as summer 2017.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the United Nations to take new sanctions against North Korea. A day earlier, Tillerson said North Korea's closest major ally, China, has pledged to impose unilateral sanctions should Pyongyang carry out another nuclear test.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that the chamber would hold a vote on sanctions next week, which he said would target North Korea's shipping industry and "those who employ North Korean slave labor abroad."

— NBC News, Reuters, CNBC's Jacob Pramuk and Everett Rosenfeld contributed to this report.