North Korea tests new ‘ultramodern tactical weapon’: report
PYONGYANG: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the testing of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon”, Pyongyang’s state media reported Friday, in a move that will raise the temperature over denuclearisation talks.
It marked the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since it began a delicate diplomatic process with Washington over its nuclear and missile programme.
“Kim Jong Un… visited the test ground of the Academy of Defence Science and supervised a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test,” said the official Korean Central News Agency.
It said the test was successful but did not specify the type of device involved.
Pyongyang’s suspension of testing for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has been key to this year’s rapid diplomatic developments and North Korean-US negotiations, and has been repeatedly praised by President Donald Trump.
Trump and Kim met in a historic summit in Singapore in June, where they signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Hours after the KCNA report, the US State Department said it was “confident” the process remained on track.
“At the Singapore Summit, President Trump and Chairman Kim made a number of commitments regarding final, fully verified denuclearisation and creating a brighter future for North Korea,” a statement said.
“We are talking with the North Koreans about implementing all of those commitments. We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled.”
Progress since Singapore has since stalled as Washington and Pyongyang spar over the meaning of the document, and a return to testing would cast grave doubts over the future of the process.
The use of the word “tactical” in the KCNA report suggests that no long-range ballistic rocket or nuclear device was involved, and there were no immediate indications any such test had been detected by the South.
However, one of the senior military officials listed as accompanying Kim was Pak Jong Chon, identified by the specialist website NK Leadership Watch as head of the Korean People’s Army Artillery Command.
KCNA released only one photograph to accompany its report, showing uniformed men taking notes as Kim talked. The background gave few clues to what kind of weapon was involved.
Kim expressed “great satisfaction” and said the test marks a “decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity” of the North’s military, KCNA said.
The “ultramodern tactical weapon” had been developed over a long period and its “great success serves as another striking demonstration of the validity of the Party policy of prioritising defence science and technology and the rapidly developing defence capability”, it added.
The news came almost a year after Pyongyang’s last test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and recalled the repeated announcements of 2017, which included by far its most powerful nuclear blast to date and rockets that brought the whole of the US mainland into range.