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THE US threatened a swift response after North Korea fired another ballistic missile last night, ratcheting up tensions with the West.
Trump administration chiefs said a raft of new economic sanctions and military manoeuvres may be speedily deployed after the rocket threat.
Earlier the President warned of a “major, major conflict” with Kim Jong-un’s hermit state if it doesn’t fall into line.
And China ordered it to stand down its rocket testing or risk harsh sanctions.
In a failed test, a missile was launched from Pukchang Airfield north of the capital Pyongyang at around 9:30pm GMT.
US officials confirmed they had tracked the medium range weapon, which may have been nuclear capable, and that President Trump had been informed.
He later tweeted: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!”
The rocket exploded within North Korean territory above the sea of Japan minutes after it was fired, military chiefs said.
“It’s possible that something could be sped up,” a senior White House official said of the potential for imposing new sanctions on North Korea.
“Something that’s ready to go could be taken from the larger package and expedited.”
Just hours earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile development could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.
China, which has long provided a lifeline to the rogue nation, upped its effort to rein in its trigger-happy neighbour by threatening economic curbs if it further posed a risk.
But the Chinese echoed the Russians by cautioning the West against threatening brute force against skittish Kim.
America committed itself to keeping military options “on the table” to ward off North Korea’s nuclear ambitions at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday.
In a show of force, the United States is sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.
It will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday.
South Korea’s navy has said it will hold drills with the US strike group.