North Korea says it tested new rocket system

State news agency says leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test firings and had expressed ‘satisfaction’ over the outcome.

North Korea
US officials have downplayed the threat of the launches to the US and its allies [Ahn Young-joon/AP]

North Korea has announced that its leader Kim Jong Un supervised test firings of a new multiple rocket launcher system he sees as soon serving a “main role” in his military’s land combat operations.

The report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday disputed the assessment by South Korea’s military, which had concluded that Wednesday’s launches as two short-range ballistic missiles.

The launches from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan were North Korea’s second weapons test in less than a week and were seen as a move to keep up pressure on Washington and Seoul, amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations.

Pyongyang has also expressed anger over planned US-South Korea military drills.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that the planned military drills will go ahead.

KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction over the test firings and said the newly developed rocket system would create an “inescapable distress to the forces becoming a fat target of the weapon”.

The agency provided no specific descriptions of how the “large-calibre multiple launch guided rocket system” performed during the launches, but said the tests confirmed the system’s technical characteristics and “combat effectiveness.”

South Korea‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday that the weapons it then assessed as missiles flew about 250km at an apogee of 30km.

South Korea’s military had no immediate comment over the North Korean report. US officials have downplayed the threat of the launches to the United States and its allies.

US national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday that the tests did not violate a pledge Kim made to President Donald Trump, but Pyongyang had yet to say when working-level talks on denuclearisation would resume.

The UN Security Council is expected to discuss the latest launches behind closed doors on Thursday at the request of the UK, France and Germany, council diplomats said.

Analysts say North Korea with its consecutive weapons tests is demonstrating its displeasure with the pace of nuclear diplomacy with Washington.

The North’s testing activity could intensify if the negotiations do not proceed rapidly over the next few months, said Srinivasan Sitaraman, a North Korea expert at Clark University in Massachusetts.

By firing weapons that directly threaten South Korea but not the US mainland or its Pacific territories, North Korea also appears to be testing how far Washington will tolerate its bellicosity without actually causing the nuclear negotiations to collapse, other experts said.

Source: News Agencies