North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ‘oversees test-fire of tactical weapon’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen the test-firing of a new type of “tactical guided weapon,” North Korean state media report, the first public test since the collapse of a second round of top-level negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced in a report on Thursday that the test-firing had been personally overseen by Kim from an observation post.

The KCNA said the North Korean leader “climbed the observation post to observe the new tactical guided weapons firing test plan and gave directions.”

The report added that the test, which was “conducted by various firing method[s] on... different targets, had perfectly proved the design specifications of this tactical guided weapon which is evaluated to be superior due to its special flight guidance method and powerful warheads.”

The report did not specify the kind of the weapon tested or its potential range. There was also no indication that the test involved a nuclear detonation or an intercontinental ballistic missile since “tactical” implies a short-range weapon rather than a long-range armament, according to the KCNA.

The North Korean news outlet, however, said Kim had praised the weapon’s capabilities and described the event as having “very weighty significance.”

“The development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army,” Kim said, referring to the North Korean army. “I was often completely moved in admiration at the time of strategic weapons development, but seeing this, it seems our scientists, engineers and the labor class is truly great. If they are willing, then no weapon is beyond creation.”

The Thursday report came as a US-based monitor said recent satellite images had shown activity at the main North Korean nuclear site of Yongbyon, which could be associated with the reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel.
Yongbyon, about 100 kilometers north of the capital, Pyongyang, is home to the North’s first nuclear reactor, and is the only known source of plutonium for the country’s weapons program.

During the second summit between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, which was held in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, in February, Kim proposed a deal that included an offer to dismantle the Yongbyon complex.

Trump, however, walked away from the summit, claiming that Kim had insisted on the removal of all sanctions on North Korea in return. Pyongyang rejected that account, stressing that it had only asked for a partial lifting of the bans.

Disappointed by the collapse of the talks, Pyongyang is considering suspending talks on denuclearization with Washington and resuming its nuclear and missile tests, a senior North Korean official said last month.
Pyongyang has taken several steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.

The US, however, has insisted that all sanctions on the North must remain in place until it completely and irreversibly dismantles its nuclear program.

Trump and Kim met for the first time at a historic summit in Singapore in June last year, when they agreed to “work toward” denuclearization. US-North Korean diplomacy has effectively stopped, however, with the US’s position of zero compromise since the second summit, in Hanoi. Meanwhile, Trump has said he is considering a potential third summit with Kim. The North’s leader, however, says he has no interest in a third summit if it is going to be a repeat of Hanoi.