North Korea tests new ultramodern tactical weapon: State media
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen the testing of a 'newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon', Pyongyang's state media reported yesterday, in a move that will raise the temperature over denuclearization 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 program. Here are the details.
Test was successful, said report, without specifying the device involved
"Kim Jong-un visited the test ground of the Academy of Defense Science and supervised a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test," reported the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It said the test was successful but didn't specify the device involved. Pyongyang's suspension of testing for nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missiles has been key to North Korea-US negotiations and has been repeatedly praised by President Trump.
US 'confident' that denuclearization process remained on track
Trump and Kim met in a historic summit in Singapore in June, where they signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearization of the peninsula. Hours after KCNA reports, 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 denuclearization," a statement said.
This recent testing to cast doubts over denuclearization progress
"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," said US State Department. Notably, progress is 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.
'Tactical' in KCNA-report suggests no long-range ballistic rocket was involved
Interestingly, the use of the word "tactical" in the KCNA report suggests that no long-range ballistic rocket was involved, and there were no immediate indications that any such test was detected by 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.
Federation of American Scientists expressed fear over the weapon test
KCNA released only one photograph to accompany its report, showing uniformed men taking notes as Kim talked. In response, Adam Mount of Federation of American Scientists tweeted: "That pit of dread you felt in your stomach when you read this is your reminder that the DPRK (North Korea) missile test pause is voluntary, partial, and can fail without notice if it isn't explicitly codified."
This comes almost a year after Pyongyang's last test
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.
Pyongyang demands easy sanctions over its weapons programs
Meanwhile, the second encounter between Chairman Kim and President Trump is expected in the new year. But Pyongyang is demanding sanctions imposed against it, over its weapons programs, be eased and has condemned US demands for what it calls its "unilateral" disarmament as "gangster-like". Washington insists the measures should stay in place until the North's "final, fully verified" denuclearization.