North Korea has launched two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan, fuelling tension ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and ramping up pressure on the new Biden administration.
The apparent tests were reported by authorities in the United States, South Korea and Japan, and coincided with the start of the Olympic torch relay in Japan.
They would be the first ballistic missile tests by North Korea in nearly a year and the first reported under US President Joe Biden, who took office in January.
Analysts said the latest missile tests do not mean denuclearisation diplomacy is dead but highlight an inconvenient truth for the new US administration: Pyongyang's arsenal is advancing every day, posing new threats and increasing its potential bargaining power should talks resume.
"Every day that passes without a deal that tries to reduce the risks posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile arsenal is a day that it gets bigger and badder," said US nuclear affairs expert Vipin Narang.
Thursday's launches came just days after North Korea fired several cruise missiles in a move Biden said was not provocative and "business as usual".
The Biden administration is in the final stages of its North Korea policy review, officials have said, and has been simultaneously signalling a hard line on human rights, denuclearisation and sanctions, while making diplomatic overtures so far rebuffed by Pyongyang.
It would be a mistake for Washington to ignore the advances in North Korea's short-range missiles, according to Markus Garlauskas at the Atlantic Council and former US National Intelligence Officer for North Korea.
Especially after leader Kim Jong Un declared in January his military had the technology to miniaturise nuclear warheads and place them on tactical missiles.
"Downplaying North Korean ballistic missile tests will not help US diplomacy with North Korea in any way and only encourage North Korea to further test the bounds of what the new administration can accept," he said.
The missile launches highlight the threat North Korea's illicit weapons program poses to its neighbours and the international community, the United States military's Indo-Pacific Command said.
The command said it was monitoring the situation and consulting allies.
Japan's coastguard said the first missile was detected soon after 7 am and flew about 420km. A second flew about 430km, 20 minutes later.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported two "short-range missiles" were fired into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan from North Korea's east coast.
Narang said even short-range ballistic missile tests would be a "step up" from the weekend cruise-missile test, and allow North Korea to improve its technology.
The launches overshadowed the start of the Olympic torch relay, beginning a four-month countdown to the summer Games in Tokyo.
"The first launch in just less than a year represents a threat to peace and stability in Japan and the region and violates UN resolutions," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told public broadcaster NHK.
Suga said he would discuss the launches with Biden in Washington next month.