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North Korea allegedly launched three test missiles into the sea on Wednesday local time, according to South Korea.
The purported missile tests came just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden left Asia, where he restated his commitment to defend U.S. allies against North Korea’s nuclear threat. The North is believed to have launched an intercontinental ballistic missile and two shorter-range weapons.
This photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test-fire of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at an undisclosed location in North Korea on March 24, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
The tests would be the North’s first ICBM launch in about two months as nuclear diplomacy talks with the United States have stalled. North Korea said in March that it had test-launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, violating a 2018 U.N. resolution on long-range launches.
The tests were North Korea’s seventeenth round of missile launches this year and the first since May 12.
North Korea’s ICBM launch in March marked the first such firing since 2017.
South Korea said following an emergency national security council meeting that North Korea fired a suspected ICBM and two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday.
“North Korea’s sustained provocations can only result in stronger and faster South Korea-U.S. combined deterrence and can only deepen North Korea’s international isolation,” the South Korean government said in a statement. “[Our] government is maintaining constant readiness to strongly and effectively respond to any kind of North Korean provocation.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the U.S. and South Korean militaries launched two surface-to-surface missiles in response to North Korea’s tests to show their striking capabilities. The statement said the two allies had detected North Korea’s launch plans in advance.
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends at a meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea on Feb. 28, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Biden has been notified of the situation and will continue to be briefed as more information becomes available. The White House said that U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and South Korea national security adviser Kim Sung-han spoke on the phone and both condemned North Korea’s launches.
“They both condemned [North Korea’s] destabilizing ballistic missile tests and committed to continue building on their close coordination. Mr. Sullivan also reaffirmed the United States’ steadfast commitment to the defense of [South Korea],” the White House said in a statement.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called the launches “an act of provocation and absolutely impermissible.”
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials have warned that North Korea may also soon launch its first nuclear test in nearly five years.
In this June 29 photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP/Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service)
Biden and South Korea’s president said after their summit in Seoul on Saturday that they would consider expanded military practices in an effort to deter North Korea’s nuclear threats.
When asked during his trip about possible provocations from the North, Biden said, “We are prepared for anything North Korea does.”
Biden would later meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo. They both promised to work to handle security challenges. These hurdles include North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programs and China’s “increasingly coercive” behavior.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.