Tuesday 20 August 2019

North Korea says Kim Jong Un supervised latest tests of weapons systems

The report comes hours after US President Donald Trump said Mr Kim has expressed a desire to meet again to start nuclear negotiations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, centre, has reportedly supervised a weapons demonstration (Korean Central News Agency/AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, centre, has reportedly supervised a weapons demonstration (Korean Central News Agency/AP)

By Kim Tong-Hyung, Associated Press

North Korea has said leader Kim Jong Un supervised test-firings of an unspecified new weapons system.

The incident extended a streak of weapons demonstrations that are seen as an attempt to build leverage before negotiations with the United States.

The report by North Korean state media came hours after US President Donald Trump said Mr Kim has expressed a desire to re-commence nuclear negotiations after joint US-South Korea military exercises end.

Mr Trump also said his counterpart had apologised for the flurry of recent short-range ballistic launches that rattled US allies in the region.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un at the US–North Korea summit in Singapore (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/PA)North Korea’s foreign ministry in a separate statement blasted South Korea for continuing military drills with the US, and said future dialogue will be held strictly between Pyongyang and Washington and not between the Koreas.

The report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) came a day after Seoul said it had detected North Korea launching what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff had earlier said the presumed ballistic missiles fired from North Korea’s east coast flew about 248 miles (400 kilometres) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

KCNA said Mr Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the testing firings, which it said verified that the new weapon system performs as designed.

The agency did not specify whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery, but said they were developed to suit North Korea’s “terrain condition” and provide “advantageous tactical character different to existing weapons systems”.

North Korea’s fifth round of weapons launches in less than three weeks was seen as a protest against the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the US and the continuance of US-South Korea joint military exercises that Pyongyang claims are an invasion rehearsal.

Experts say Mr Trump’s downplaying of North Korea’s recent short-range launches allowed the country more room to intensify its testing activity while it seeks to build leverage before a possible resumption of negotiations.

Talks have stalled since the collapse of Mr Trump’s second summit with Mr Kim in Vietnam in February over disagreements on exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament.

North Korea has claimed that the joint military drills between the allies, which began on Monday, compel it to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defence”.

By launching a slew of weapons that directly threaten South Korea but not the US mainland or its Pacific territories, North Korea also appears to be dialling up pressure on Seoul to make stronger efforts to coax major concessions from the US on Pyongyang’s behalf, experts say.

PA Media

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