North Korea launched three missiles Wednesday morning, including an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the South Korean military. The tests came on the heels of President Biden's visit to the region earlier this week. The first launch was probably a Hwasong-17, the largest known ICBM in the North's arsenal; however, per the New York Times, it flew only 224 miles, "indicating that North Korea did not want to launch the missile on a full ICBM trajectory over the Pacific while Mr. Biden was in the air on his way back to Washington." The second missile evidently failed, disintegrating at an altitude of 12 miles, and the third was a short-range missile fired into the ocean.
The South Korean and US militaries responded by test-launching surface-to-surface missiles of their own, officials from the South said, in order to demonstrate their "swift striking capability to deter further provocations from North Korea." South Korea's air force also conducted an "elephant walk," positioning 30 fully armed F-15K fighters on a runway as a show of force. According to CNN, Japanese officials said they detected at least two of North Korean missiles, one of which landed "just outside of Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone."
Additionally, South Korea reported evidence that the North has been testing a high-explosive nuclear detonation device, a sign that the North could be "near the last preparation stage for a nuclear test," also per CNN. It would be the nation's first nuclear test since 2017. The Times notes that North Korea suspended missile and nuclear testing back in 2018 prior to a summit between Kim Jong Un and then-US President Trump. The two failed to reach an agreement on how to dismantle the North's nuclear program; the hermit kingdom resumed ICBM testing this March. Per the BBC, the North also tested ballistic missiles on May 12, "the same day that Mr. Kim declared an emergency" over a suspected COVID outbreak. (Read more North Korea missile launch stories.)