Military says projectiles fired from South Hamgyong Province amid stalemate in denuclearisation talks with US.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a “successful test” of a super-large multiple launch rocket system and expressed “great satisfaction,” state media said on Friday.
North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Thursday in what appeared to be a fresh try out of its new multiple rocket launchers following three previous tests, South Korea’s military said.
Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency said Kim oversaw the latest test, as he did with previous tests in August and September. He did not attend the last one on October 31.
“The volley test-fire aimed to finally examine the combat application of the super-large multiple launch rocket system proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability,” KCNA said.
“The Supreme Leader expressed great satisfaction over the results of the test-fire.”
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the South Korean capital Seoul, said the test “seems to be very similar to previous launches” showing Pyongyang’s “frustration” about the stalled talks with the US.
The projectiles were fired eastwards from South Hamgyong Province and came down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
Pyongyang is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Thursday’s launch was the latest in a series of violations.
“North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country but also the international community,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
Kim has set an end-year deadline to kick-start the talks with Washington, but negotiations remain at a stalemate after a working-level meeting last month broke down.
North Korea has demanded biting sanctions be lifted and warned it could take a “new path,” raising concerns it may resume nuclear and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.
US top nuclear negotiator Stephen Biegun said last week the year-end deadline was an artificial one but could mean a return to “provocative” steps that preceded the past two years of diplomacy.
Nuclear negotiations between the US and the North have been at a standstill since the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim broke up in February, and Pyongyang has since demanded Washington change its approach by the end of the year.
“North Korea is growing anxious as its deadline approaches,” said Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“That’s why it’s carrying out these provocations, which is the typical North Korean playbook to get more concessions from the US.”
Last month Pyongyang also claimed to have tested a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missile – a potential strategic game-changer.
Trump has played down the recent launches, repeatedly pointing to North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches as foreign policy successes for him.