North Korean leader Kim Jong-un orders stronger strike power after long-range missile tests

A television news program at a railway station in the South's capital Seoul on May 9, 2019 shows a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Photo by AFP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the military to boost its strike capability a day after he directed a successful long-range strike drill amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States.

Kim “stressed the need to further increase the capability of the defense units in the forefront area and on the western front to carry out combat tasks and keep full combat posture to cope with any emergency,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Friday.

He noted "genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force capable of defending its sovereignty,” it said, adding Kim "set forth important tasks for further increasing the strike ability."

Kim observed long-range missile test

Kim’s call for "full combat posture" came a day after he observed the test fire of two long-range ballistic weapons that were initially presumed to be short range missiles.
This photo supplied by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows a missile launched during a military drill in North Korea, May 10, 2019. (Via Reuters)
South Korea’s military said Pyongyang test-fired two short-range missiles from the northwestern city of Kusong on Thursday.

KCNA said on Friday Kim himself ordered and oversaw the “long-range strike drills,” which were designed to test the military's "rapid reaction" ability.

The North Korean leader reportedly expressed satisfaction with the drill and stressed "the need to further increase the capability" of the country’s armed forces on its western front.

The Pentagon confirmed the missile launches, according to CNN.Thursday’s firing came less than a week after Pyongyang tested several new weapons systems, the first confirmed launches of their kind since November 2017.

The North put a halt on its missiles and nuclear test launches, shortly before a diplomatic thaw began between Pyongyang and Seoul and led to the first ever summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore last June.

The halt was among many other steps that Pyongyang has taken to move forward in denuclearization negotiations with the US, but the talks – currently suspended — have made little progress, mainly because Washington refuses to lift its harsh sanctions on North Korea.

In February, Trump and Kim met for a second time at a summit in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, but the meeting broke up without an agreement or even a joint statement as the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

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

Ahead of the Hanoi summit, Trump had said he was “not in a rush” and that “as long as there's no testing, we're happy.”

Trump: ‘Nobody’s happy’

At a White House event on Thursday, however, the president expressed his dissatisfaction with Pyongyang’s missile tests, saying, “Nobody's happy about it.”

“We'll see what happens," he told reporters. "I know they want to negotiate, they're talking about negotiating. But I don't think they are ready to negotiate."

The North had repeatedly warned that it was considering ending talks on denuclearization and resuming its nuclear and missile tests over what it described as “the gangster-like stand" of the US.The North’s latest launch came only hours after Trump’s top diplomat for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in the South’s capital, Seoul, for talks on how to revive nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.

North is highly displeased: South president

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, who has vowed efforts to revive denuclearization talks, said Pyongyang’s latest launch indicates that it is “highly displeased that the Hanoi summit ended without agreement.”

He said the North’s latest move had "an element of protest and is a pressuring action to steer the nuclear talks in a direction it desires,” warning that the launch "could make negotiations more difficult."

Moon, who has long favored engagement with the North, said the collapse of the summit has made his government's role “more important” to help the two sides reach “a complete settlement by any means.”

The South has acted as a go-between in diplomacy involving the US and North Korea ever since Pyongyang and Seoul started a rapprochement of their own in January 2018.