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South Korea fired a series of missiles, including an ICBM, hours after Biden left Asia According to Reuters

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© Reuters. People watch TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea’s launch of three missiles that appear to be related to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in Seoul, South Korea, May 25, 2022. REUTERS/ Kim Hong-Ji

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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired three missiles, including one believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday, after US President Joe Biden left Asia after a tour in which he agreed to new measures aimed at deterring the nuclear-armed state. .

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said three missiles were fired in less than an hour from the Sunan area, the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where the country’s international airport has become the center of the attacks. missile test.

The first rocket launched on Wednesday appeared to be an ICBM, while the second, unidentified rocket appeared to have failed mid-flight, South said. The third missile is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).

In response, the United States and South Korea held joint military exercises, including surface-to-surface missile tests, the South Korean military said.

North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to its biggest ICBM test-firing for the first time in nearly five years. It also appears to be preparing for its first nuclear test since 2017.

US and South Korean officials have recently warned that North Korea appears poised for another weapons test, possibly during Biden’s visit, his first to Asia on the presidency and included a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul.

Yoon, who took office on May 10, convened the first meeting of the national security council, which strongly condemned the latest launch as a “serious provocation”, especially the it took place before Biden returned home.

Yoon ordered aides to strengthen the expanded U.S. deterrent and incorporate the defensive posture as agreed with Biden, his office said.

“North Korea’s continued provocations will only lead to an even stronger, faster South-US containment and cause deeper isolation for themselves,” Yoon’s government said. in a separate statement.

A White House official said that Biden, who left Japan Tuesday night, has been briefed on the launches and will continue to receive updates.

Japan has reported at least two launches, but acknowledges that there may be more. Japan’s defense minister said one of the rockets flew a distance of about 750 kilometers (465 miles) to a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers and appeared to be capable of changing its trajectory during flight. Another rocket flew about 300 km and reached a maximum altitude of 550 km, he said.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said the missiles appeared to have landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said North Korea could take more provocative actions including a nuclear test.

The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the launches “multiple times”. They emphasized the “destabilizing impact of North Korea’s illegal weapons program” but did not pose an immediate threat, it said in a statement, using the initials of the official’s name. Korean consciousness.

In Seoul over the weekend, Biden and Yoon agreed to hold larger military exercises and deploy more US strategic assets if necessary to deter North Korea from ramping up weapons testing.

But they also offered to send a COVID-19 vaccine to North Korea as the isolated country battles its first confirmed outbreak, and called on Pyongyang to return to diplomacy.

Biden said at the time there had been no response from Pyongyang regarding diplomatic moves or offers of aid.

The final hours of Biden’s visit to the region also saw Russian and Chinese bombers fly joint patrols near Japanese and South Korean air defense identification zones Tuesday in a specific farewell.

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