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Hours after Biden leaves Asia, North Korea launches a missile barrage, including an ICBM.

Images: Reuters Berita 24 English - On Wednesday, North Korea fired three missiles, including what is believed to be its largest intercontin...

Images: Reuters


Berita 24 English - On Wednesday, North Korea fired three missiles, including what is believed to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, after US President Joe Biden returned from an Asia tour in which he agreed to further sanctions against the nuclear-armed regime.

Kim Tae-hyo, South Korea's deputy national security advisor, said the North looked to have conducted "several trials" with a detonation device in preparation for its seventh nuclear test, but that the test is unlikely to take place "in the next days but subsequently."

In response, both the US and South Korean forces conducted joint live-fire drills, including surface-to-surface missile tests employing the US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the South's Hyunmoo-2 SRBM.

South Korea's defense chief called for the deployment of American strategic assets in a phone call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and the two sides agreed to strengthen US extended deterrence to confront North Korean provocations, according to Seoul's defense ministry.

"Our military's show of force was intended to highlight our resolve to firmly respond to any North Korean provocations, including an ICBM launch, as well as our overwhelming capability and readiness to conduct a surgical strike on the source of the provocation," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea said in a statement.

North Korea has launched a barrage of missiles this year, ranging from hypersonic weapons to the first test launching of its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in nearly five years. It also looks to be planning a nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017.

North Korea appeared ready for another nuclear test, according to Washington and Seoul sources, possibly during Biden's tour to Asia, which included a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul.

The three missiles were launched on Wednesday in less than an hour from the Sunan area of Pyongyang's capital, Pyongyang, where the North's international airport has become a missile testing hotspot, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to South Korea's deputy national security advisor, Kim Tae-hyo, the first missile seemed to be the North's largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17, while a second, unidentified missile failed mid-flight. He stated the third missile was a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), which was tested to improve nuclear delivery capability.

The second and third missiles, according to a military source in Seoul, are KN-23 SRBMs, which were first tested in 2019 and are claimed to be designed to elude missile defenses by flying on a lower, "depressed" trajectory, according to experts.

"We believe it was done for political reasons to test our new administration's security readiness... and to convey a strategic message to South Korea and the US after President Biden left," Kim said at a press conference.

ALLIED MESSAGE

Biden and Yoon agreed in Seoul over the weekend to undertake larger military drills and deploy more US strategic assets if necessary to discourage North Korea's growing arsenal of weapons.

They also offered to supply COVID-19 vaccinations to North Korea, which is dealing with its first proven outbreak, and urged Pyongyang to resume diplomatic efforts.

But, according to Biden, Pyongyang has not responded to diplomatic efforts or humanitarian offerings.

Yoon, who took office on May 10, called his first national security council meeting, which sharply criticized the latest launch as a "grave provocation," adding that Biden was on his way back.

In a second statement, Yoon's government stated that "North Korea's repeated provocations would only result in even stronger, faster South Korea-US deterrence, and inflict further isolation upon itself."

Biden had been briefed on the launches, according to a White House official, who departed Japan on Tuesday evening. "Refrain from further provocations and engage in persistent and serious conversation," a State Department spokeswoman said.

In a phone chat, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to intensify efforts to strengthen extended deterrence and facilitate a new United Nations sanctions resolution, according to Seoul's ministry.

FORCE DISPLAY

The launch interrupted Pyongyang's self-imposed 2017 embargo on long-range missile and nuclear testing, which was enforced amid failed denuclearization talks with Washington.

The putative ICBM flew 360 kilometers (223.7 miles) to a maximum altitude of 540 kilometers during Wednesday's test, while the SRBM flew 760 kilometers to a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers, according to the JCS.

According to Japan's defense minister, at least two launches were reported, one flying 300 kilometers and reaching a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers, and the other flying 750 kilometers (465 miles) and reaching a maximum height of 50 kilometers.

Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, suggested the North could engage in further provocative behavior, such as a nuclear test.

The Indo-Pacific Command of the US military confirmed that "several" launches had taken place. They called attention to the "destabilizing consequences of the DPRK's illicit weapons development," but did not pose a direct threat.

In a pointed farewell, Russian and Chinese bombers flew coordinated patrols near Japanese and South Korean air defense zones in the final hours of Biden's visit to the region on Tuesday.

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