North Korean test missile 'fizzles' hours before Pence arrives in South

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said on Sunday that state-owned China International Travel Services, International - China's main online travel website - and many other Chinese operators had halted travel to North Korea.

"It's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully", he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's unpredictability has complicated United States strategy, according to Donald Trump's national security adviser.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday saying, "North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday's military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world".

Pyongyang's latest provocation comes amid simmering tensions between the USA and North Korea over the rogue state's nuclear weapons programme. "If they are unable to do so, the USA, with its allies, will!" he tweeted Thursday.

A North Korean missile "blew up nearly immediately" on its test launch today, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice-President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North's increasingly defiant arms programme.

"The launch of the ballistic missile occurred near Sinpo", US Pacific Command spokesman CDR Dave Benham said.

"I mean, North Korea is very vulnerable to pressure from the Chinese", McMaster said on ABC's "This Week".

After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement", US officials said Friday. The administration's immediate emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of Beijing.

Pence will be tasked with explaining the policy in meetings with leaders in South Korea and Japan at the start of his trip, which will also include stops in Indonesia and Australia.

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Its national airline, Air China, has cancelled some flights to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, due to poor demand but it has not suspended all flights there, it said on Friday. "We will see what happens!"

China, North Korea's only major ally, has called for calm, warning "conflict could break out at any moment" and that such a situation would bring no winners.

The newspaper said this could come in the form of a pre-emptive strike as it reported that U.S. national security adviser General HR McMaster has told British security chiefs and military top brass that Washington has the intelligence to target key sites in the nuclear programme.

On Monday Pence will meet with acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn to reinforce the US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tensions over the North's weapons programs, according to his aides.

Along with the deployment of the US aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula, thousands of USA and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry were deployed last month in their biggest joint military exercises.

Pence's first trip to South Korea carries personal meaning as well.

Missiles are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017.

According to the White House adviser, the test had been expected and the USA had good intelligence both before and after the launch.

US officials said that missile appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile that flew about 60 km, only a fraction of its range, before spinning out of control.

"Beijing should make clear to Pyongyang through diplomatic channels: if the DPRK in spite of the opposition of the global community (carry out a sixth nuclear test), China should cut off the vast majority of their oil supply and China should support the Security Council to pass new sanctions including this measure", the paper said, referring to North Korea by its official title, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Recent satellite imagery suggests the country could conduct another underground nuclear test at any time.