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Latest missile launch by North Korea 'ends in failure' - says South Korea

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the construction site of Ryomyong Street, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 26, 2017.  KCNA via REUTER

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the construction site of Ryomyong Street, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 26, 2017. KCNA via REUTER

REUTERS

 South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

AP

People watch a TV news program showing a photo published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,  at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

People watch a TV news program showing a photo published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the construction site of Ryomyong Street, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 26, 2017. KCNA via REUTER

A new missile launch by North Korea appears to have ended in failure, South Korea has said, three days after Pyongyang claimed a major breakthrough in its rocket development programme.

The reported launch failure came as US and South Korean troops were conducting their annual military drills that the North calls an invasion rehearsal.

Earlier this month North Korea fired four ballistic missiles that landed in waters off Japan, triggering strong protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

On Wednesday morning, the North fired a missile from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, but the launch was believed to have ended in failure, Seoul's Defence Ministry said.

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 South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

AP

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

It said it was analysing what type of missile North Korea launched.

American officials said earlier this week that the US military expected another North Korean missile launch in the next few days.

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People watch a TV news program showing a photo published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,  at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

People watch a TV news program showing a photo published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

AP

People watch a TV news program showing a photo published in North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The officials said the US had increased its surveillance over the North and had detected a North Korean missile launcher being moved, as well as the construction of VIP seating in Wonsan.

The North's state media said on Sunday that it conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine, which it hailed as a breakthrough for the country's space programme.

Weapons experts say such technology has applications for the North's ballistic missile programme.

PA Media