North Korea Test-Fires Another Ballistic Missile, Heightening Tensions With U.S.

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a missile on Saturday, even as the United States and China have been seeking to curb the North’s military ambitions. But the test ended in failure, the South Korean military said. It was the second consecutive failure in the past two weeks.

The missile took off from a location near Pukchang, northeast of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, the South Korean military said in a statement. It did not identify what type of missile was launched.

It was the North’s first test since the government of Kim Jong-un launched a ballistic missile near its submarine base on North Korea’s east coast on April 16. That launch was also a failure, with the projectile exploding just after liftoff.

The test on Saturday came hours after Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson led a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday. Referring to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs, Mr. Tillerson, warned that “failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.”

The world has been watching North Korea closely in the past several weeks, amid fear that the country might attempt its sixth underground nuclear test. Satellite imagery of the nuclear test site in the country’s northeast showed that the North was ready for a test, analysts said.

But the country has so far refrained from conducting a nuclear test or launching one of its intercontinental ballistic missiles under development to mark major anniversaries in April. Instead, it celebrated those anniversaries with a military parade featuring new missiles and a massive live-fire drill.

It remained unclear what has caused the series of missile test failures.

Over the past three years, a covert war over the missile program has broken out between North Korea and the United States. As the North’s skills grew, President Barack Obama ordered a surge in countermeasures against the missile launches, The New York Times reported last month, including through electronic-warfare techniques.

It is unclear how successful the program has been, because it is almost impossible to tell whether any individual launch failed because of sabotage, faulty engineering or bad luck.