South Korea, which hosts 28,500 USA troops, warned of punitive action if the Sunday launch led to further provocation.
China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the "situation on the Korean peninsula" by phone on Sunday, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
A North Korean missile "blew up nearly immediately" on its test launch today, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice-President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North's increasingly defiant arms programme.
U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged China's help with the North Korean issue on Sunday, linking it to a softer line taken on China's management of its currency.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday saying, "North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday's military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world". "The president has no further comment". North Korea is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles. He will also aim to reassure allies in South Korea and Japan that the US will take appropriate steps to defend them against North Korean aggression.
"The North attempted to launch an unidentified missile from near the Sinpo region this morning but it is suspected to have failed", the South's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
North Korea's actions come as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.
McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, visited Afghanistan this weekend, days after the USA military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in an attack on Islamic State positions there.
In Seoul, South Korea's presidential office convened a national security council meeting to examine security postures.
The North regularly launches short-range missiles, but is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target US troops in Asia and, eventually, the USA mainland.
The U.S. nuclear-powered Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region.
Analysts warn that even failed missile launches provide valuable knowledge to North Korea as it tries to build its weapons program.
North Korea launched a long-range rocket and conducted two nuclear tests a year ago, including its most powerful to date, and there have been a slew of shorter range missile firings.
Some of the weapons on show included nuclear-capable missiles that have previously been successfully tested.
Kim Jong Un has overseen three nuclear tests and a string of missile and rocket launches since taking over after the death of his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, in late 2011.
It is not known what kind of weapon was tested on Sunday, although Pyongyang has repeatedly stated its aim of developing a rocket that could drop a nuclear payload on the U.S. mainland.
China opposes THAAD as a threat to its own security, but also has spoken out against North Korea's missile and nuclear tests and has supported United Nations sanctions.
USA officials said that missile appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile that flew about 60 km, only a fraction of its range, before spinning out of control.
Despite Sunday's failure, the North's previous claim to have used "standardized" warheads has led to worries that it was making headway in its push to develop small and sophisticated warheads to be topped on long-range missiles. And the two leading candidates, Moon Jae-in with the Democratic Party and Ahn Cheol-soo with the People's Party, both support direct dialogue with North Korea to reduce tensions, positions that may put them in opposition to USA policy.