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

Carla Harmon
August 12, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Saturday's test of a new weapon, state media KCNA said on Sunday, as a senior diplomat dismissed the possibility of inter-Korean talks in protest against South Korea-U.S. military drills.

Defense officials in Seoul said what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles were fired at daybreak from near the northeastern city of Hamhung, flying 400 kilometers before splashing down in the sea.

The Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday that analysis of the latest test proved the new weapon performed "perfectly" as designed.

Kim is quoted as saying the new weapon has an "advantageous tactical character" different from existing systems. But the North insists even the downsized drills violate agreements between Kim and Trump and compel it to "develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense".

"In a letter to me sent by Kim Jong-un, he stated, very nicely, that he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint US/South Korea joint exercise are over", Trump said on Twitter.

Experts say Trump s downplaying of the North s launches allowed the country more room to intensify its testing activity while it seeks to build leverage ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations.

"Given that the military exercise clearly puts us as an enemy in its concept ... an inter-Korean contact itself will be hard to be made unless they put an end to such a military exercise or before they make a plausible excuse" for the drills, Kwon said, according to KCNA.

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.

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 dialing up pressure on Seoul to make stronger efforts to coax major concessions from the United States on Pyongyang s behalf.

Trump has changed the debate by adding his own criticism of what he has called "war games" as part of his demands that South Korea pay more for maintaining some 28,500 USA troops on the peninsula.

The United States and South Korea proceeded with planned joint military exercises early last week, despite North Korea's characterization of the exercises as provocative and threatening.

Trump has signaled that would be a red line, although USA -led United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions ban the North from using any ballistic missile technology.

Trump tweeted that in his letter, Kim complained about the exercises, but apologized for the tests and wrote that they will cease when the exercises stop. Even so, there are no current plans for the United States to curtail future military exercises with South Korea, according to the American defense secretary. The New York Times also said Trump is seemingly echoing the North's criticism over the drills, saying they cost too much and South Korea does not pay enough for them.

The foreign ministry in Pyongyang said Trump's comments effectively recognised the North's "self-defensive rights" as a sovereign state to conduct "small" missile tests.

Other reports by iNewsToday