— -- North Korea has launched a SCUD missile from its eastern coast into the Sea of Japan, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The test comes just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with President Donald Trump in Florida, during which North Korea is expected to be a major point of discussion.
"U.S. Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:42 a.m. Hawaii time April 4," said Commander David Benham, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command, in a statement. "The launch of a single ballistic missile occurred at a land-based facility near Sinpo ... The missile was tracked until it landed in the Sea of Japan at 11:51 a.m. Initial assessments indicate the type of missile was a KN-15 medium range ballistic missile."
U.S. officials later clarified that the missile was in fact a SCUD missile, which is liquid fueled, unlike the solid fueled KN-15. One official characterized the launch as a means of getting attention because North Korea has launched the same type of missiles in the past. The launch is being assessed as an in-flight failure.
"U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Benham said in the statement.
And in a seemingly terse statement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."
U.S. officials said the missile traveled 34 miles before spinning out of control and landing in the Sea of Japan. That distance is much shorter than recent North Korean missile tests that have drawn strong criticism from the United States, South Korea and Japan.
Two weeks ago North Korea conducted a failed missile test that came on the heels of an earlier test in March where four medium range ballistic missiles were fired in a salvo. Those missiles traveled to their maximum range of 620 miles with some falling in the waters belonging to Japan's exclusive economic zone.
North Korea has previously test-fired missiles near Sinpo, where it has a submarine base.
A KN-11 submarine launched missile was successfully launched from waters off Sinpo last August that traveled 310 miles into the Sea of Japan.
In February, North Korea successfully tested a land-based version of the KN-11 that also traveled the same distance.
General John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a Congressional panel Tuesday that the February launch marked a significant advancement for North Korea because it was its first successful solid-fueled missile fired from a mobile launcher.
Hyten labeled the February launch of the KN-11 missile as “a major advancement” by North Korea because it was "a new solid medium range ballistic missile off a new transporter erector launcher."
And Hyten said North Korea showed off pictures "for the entire world to see out of a place we'd never seen before that showed a new technology. A new North Korean capability to employ a very challenging technology for us."
He explained that liquid-fueled missiles can be unstable and take a long time to fuel and set-up. But “a solid (fueled) rocket can be rolled out and launched at a moment's notice.”
Hyten added that America's early missile program was based on liquid fueled rockets that could be unstable and dangerous but “a solid is a much better solution. So all of our inventory now is solids.”