South Korea’s military on Wednesday said its northern neighbors launched an alleged hypersonic missile that exploded mid-flight. 

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea launched the missile around 5:30 a.m., and it traveled off the North’s east coast before blowing up. 

The weapon was a suspected solid-fueled hypersonic missile, and the launch generated more smoke than normal launches, likely because of an engine fault, the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters.

south korea hypersonic missile launch

Contrails believed to be created by a North Korean missile are observed off Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, on Wednesday.  (Kim Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan condemned the missile launch as a violation of U.N. resolutions, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.

The failed missile tests come as the rival Koreas have been engaging in Cold War-style psychological warfare tactics, including using balloons and loudspeaker broadcasts, irking the other side. 

SOUTH KOREA SLAMS NORTH KOREA’S TRASH BALLOON TACTICS, THREATENS RETURN OF LOUDSPEAKER BROADCASTS

South Korea said Wednesday evening that the North had flown balloons carrying trash across the border for a third day in a row. Previous launches dropped manure, cigarette butts, waste batteries, and scraps of cloth in South Korea.

The balloon launches forced South Korea’s Incheon International Airport — about an hour’s drive from the border — to suspend takeoffs and landings for at least three hours early Wednesday, according to South Korean aviation authorities.

North Korea has said the balloons are in response to the South launching its own balloons across the North that carried political leaflets. 

south koreans watch broadcast of missile launch on television

People watch a news program broadcasting a file image of a missile launch by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Earlier this month, South Korea conducted propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border for the first time in years in response to the North Korean balloons. South Korea’s military said Monday it is ready to turn on its loudspeakers again.

16 CONFIRMED DEAD, OTHERS MISSING AFTER FIRE BREAKS OUT AT LITHIUM BATTERY FACTORY IN SOUTH KOREA

Later Wednesday, South Korea and the U.S. flew 30 advanced fighter jets as part of joint drills.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in South Korea on Saturday, and North Korean Vice Defense Minister Kim Kang Il on Monday called its deployment “reckless” and “dangerous.” 

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the vessel on Tuesday. Yoon told American and South Korean forces on the carrier that their countries’ alliance is the world’s greatest and can defeat any enemy. He said the U.S. carrier would depart Wednesday for the South Korea-U.S.-Japan drill, dubbed “Freedom Edge.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, third from left, boards the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier at the South Korean naval base in Busan, South Korea, on Tuesday.  (South Korean Presidential Office/Yonhap via AP)

South Korean officials said the training aims to strengthen the three countries’ capability to respond to North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats at a time when the North is advancing its military partnership with Russia.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last week for a summit in Pyongyang where they signed a deal strengthening military and economic ties. 

North Korea’s missile launch on Wednesday was its first weapons demonstration since Kim Jong Un last month supervised the firing of nuclear-capable multiple rocket launchers to simulate a preemptive attack on South Korea.

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Since 2022, North Korea has sharply increased its weapons tests to boost its nuclear attack capabilities in response to what it calls a deepening U.S. military threat.

The North has long regarded the South’s joint military exercises with the U.S. as a dress rehearsal for invasion. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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