A North Korean soldier sits on his bicycle near Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong on Sunday. China issued a stern warning that a conflict over North Korea could break out "at any moment" as Pyongyang vowed a "merciless" response to any US military action. Photo: AFP
North Korea's failed missile test on Sunday shows that the country's missile technology is still far from being fully developed, but Pyongyang is likely to conduct more tests, which will surely lead to a tougher response from the US, Chinese experts said.
North Korea reportedly tested an unidentified missile early on Sunday from its eastern coastal city of Sinpo, with the Pentagon confirming that it had failed, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Sunday's test will not have an effect on the US and South Korea, which gave them no excuse to immediately launch a military strike against North Korea, but things may change as North Korea reportedly might conduct a nuclear test around April 25, the founding of the Korean People's Army, said Lü Chao, a researcher on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.
The Yonhap NewsAgency reported on Friday that "Pyongyang will mark the 85th anniversary of the military's founding on April 25, a possible occasion for a provocative act."
"We hope both North Korea and the US keep calm and stop any further provocation since the situation is still very intense," Lü said.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula over the phone on Sunday, Xinhua reported, without giving further details.
US President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!"
North Korea's failed test came amid mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which also led to an order for the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group to change course and head to waters near the peninsula about a week ago, Xinhua reported.
Although North Korea showcased different types of missiles at a military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, this doesn't prove they have reliable missile technology, and the latest failure casts further doubts on their capabilities, Song Zhongping, a military expert who used to serve in the Second Artillery Corps (now known as the PLA Rocket Force), told the Global Times on Sunday.
North Korea held a military parade on Saturday to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim II-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. During the parade, North Korea showed off what observers believe to be three types of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Countries conduct dozens of missile tests to verify reliability, so North Korea will probably continue tests, for it refuses to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, Song said.
But ordinary people in Pyongyang seemed to know nothing about Sunday's failed test. The Global Times reporter in Pyongyang said on Sunday that North Korea's state-run media didn't release any information about the missile test.
An anonymous North Korean official who stayed with foreign media in Pyongyang told the Global Times on Sunday, "We heard that from other foreign journalists." The official also asked the Global Times reporter for additional details.
An anonymous Pyongyang resident at the Kim II-sung flower show said, "How could it be possible?" when foreign journalists asked him about the failed test on Sunday.
The latest missile test is "dangerously provocative," which shows that North Korea makes irrational decisions, and they might harm the country's national security and interests, said Chu Yin, an associate professor at Beijing's University of International Relations.
"The failed launch will not create deterrence. The US has already delivered a tough message to Pyongyang by sending an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula, so it would not be a surprise if the US launches a unilateral military strike," Chu said.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the botched missile launch, saying it is still analyzing what type of missile was launched.
The South Korean military said a ballistic missile tested on April 5 was an intermediate-range Pukguksong-2, known to be a newly developed submarine-based ballistic missile. It fell into the Sea of Japan after flying for about 60 kilometers, Xinhua reported.
"Maybe the US and its allies also did something disruptive to the launch, but that's highly unlikely. If the missile was launched during a war, the US would immediately destroy the missile site. But they are not at war, so the US needs to see how far North Korea's missiles travel," Song said, adding that "The US would rather let North Korea complete its test rather than interrupt it, so that it could collect useful intelligence, as long as the missiles don't target the US and its allies."