26 May 2019

North Korea conducts tests for 'tactical guided weapon': report

KONFRONTASI-North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has supervised the test-firing of a new type of "tactical guided weapon" in a move that could be an attempt to register the country's displeasure with currently deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.

The country's state media, KCNA, reported on Thursday that the "advantages" of the weapon were "the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead".

The report also said that the North Korean leader described its development as one "of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army".

KCNA added that Wednesday's test was "conducted in various modes of firing at different targets" and that Kim "guided the test-fire". 

The announcement comes a day after a US monitor, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said activity had been detected at North Korea's main nuclear site. It suggested Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel since the collapse of a February summit with the United States in Vietnam.

That meeting, the second between US President Donald Trump and Kim, ended abruptly without agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

Since then, North Korea has said it is mulling options for its diplomacy with the US, and Kim said last week he was open to talks with Trump only if Washington came with the "proper attitude".

Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US state department official, told Al Jazeera that it was a "tactical weapon and not a missile".

"North Korea is maybe exaggerating a bit in order to get America's attention and that's what it is all about," said Fitzpatrick.

"Kim would like to make Trump think again about a deal that might be in the interest of both countries [following the failed Vietnam summit]."

The White House said it was aware of the report and had no comment. The Pentagon said it was aware of the reports but has no information to provide at this point.

"Kim is trying to make a statement to the Trump administration that his military potential is growing by the day," said Center for the National Interest analyst Harry Kazianis. 

Last November, KCNA reported that Kim oversaw the testing of a "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon" months after his first meeting with Trump."His regime is becoming frustrated with Washington's lack of flexibility in recent negotiations."

It was the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since it began negotiations with Washington over its nuclear and missile programme. [mr/aje]

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