North Korea has test-fired three missiles off its east coast, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to the governments of South Korea and Japan.
The tests on Wednesday came hours after Joe Biden, the president of the United States, left the region following a five-day tour during which he pledged to defend South Korea and Japan in the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile arsenal.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the first missile was launched from the Sunan area in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, at 6am local time (21:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
The second was launched 37 minutes later and the third five minutes after that.
The military said the first of the three projectiles was a suspected ICBM and flew about 360km (224 miles) with a maximum altitude of 540km (336 miles).
If confirmed, this will be the second ICBM test North Korea has conducted since Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un ended a four-year self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests in March.
The second projectile appears to have failed after reaching an altitude of 20km (12 miles), the military said, while the third – a suspected short-range ballistic missile – flew about 760km (472 miles) with a maximum altitude of 60km (37 miles).
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-Yeol, who convened a meeting of his National Security Council, condemned North Korea’s latest launches as a “serious provocation threatening international peace”. He also ordered “practical measures for the activation of extended deterrence and strengthening of the South Korea-US combined defence posture,” a statement from his office said.