A man watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a train station in Seoul on June 26, 2024.

North Korea attempted to display its military strength by launching a ballistic missile that failed shortly after takeoff. This occurred just a week after the country signed a mutual defense pact with Russia, causing alarm in the United States and its allies.

The missile was launched around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday from a location near Pyongyang, according to a message sent to reporters by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. They stated that South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies were conducting an analysis to gather further details.

The missile traveled approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) before exploding in the air east of the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan, scattering debris across several kilometers, Yonhap reported, citing an unnamed JCS official. This official said the missile likely carried a hypersonic glide vehicle, a type of warhead designed to maneuver at high speeds to evade interception.

This marks the first ballistic missile launch since Kim Jong Un’s regime fired a barrage of short-range ballistic missiles in late May.

In recent years, North Korea has generally avoided missile failures as Kim has introduced a new range of rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads and designed to strike the U.S. mainland as well as its allies Japan and South Korea. However, the country has experienced setbacks with its rockets intended to deploy satellites, with its latest attempt in late May ending in failure when the rocket disintegrated in a fireball shortly after launch.

Prior to the latest missile test, North Korea criticized the U.S. for sending the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier group to the Korean Peninsula for joint training exercises with Japan and South Korea. They issued threats of retaliation.

“The DPRK bitterly condemns the provocative attempts of the U.S. and the ROK, the heinous confrontation maniacs with the most powerful rhetoric and with all possibilities of demonstrating its overwhelming and new deterrent force,” Vice Defense Minister Kim Kang Il said, using abbreviations to refer to North Korea and South Korea by their formal names, according to the official Korean Central News Agency on Monday.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the aircraft carrier on Tuesday while it was docked in the southeastern city of Busan. He stated that the visit aimed to demonstrate to Kim the U.S. commitment to deploying its nuclear umbrella to protect his country, formally known as the Republic of Korea.

The U.S. and its allies Japan and South Korea began the week by condemning “in the strongest possible terms” the deepening military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, deeming it a serious concern and a threat to stability.

Envoys from the three countries expressed their concern over the agreement made by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim to come to each other’s defense in case of attack, as stated in a joint statement released by the U.S. State Department. This pact was formed during Putin’s first visit to North Korea in 24 years last week.

The U.S. and its Asian allies have also suggested that Putin’s visit could facilitate the transfer of munitions from Kim’s regime to assist Putin’s war in Ukraine. The agreement likely means the U.S. and its allies will need to reassess the potential consequences of using weapons against North Korea.

Envoys from the three countries held talks following the latest missile launch.

North Korea escalated tensions further by sending two new batches of balloons carrying trash across the border into South Korea this week. This followed Seoul’s detection of items such as roundworms in the contents of previous shipments sent since late May.

The number of balloons reached approximately 600 this week, briefly disrupting flights at Seoul’s main international airport on Wednesday morning.

North Korea also held a large rally in Pyongyang to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Korean War’s outbreak. Speakers at the rally “expressed their will to annihilate the U.S. imperialists and the ROK puppets,” KCNA reported on Wednesday.