North Korea tests ‘tactical’ weapon, report says

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In this image made from a video taken on Friday, April 12, 2019, by North Korean broadcaster KRT, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers his speech at parliament in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim said he is open to a third summit with President Donald Trump, but set the year’s end as a deadline for […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has inspected and directed a “new tactical guided weapons firing test,” according to a report from the country’s state media.

The report, from news agency KCNA, did not state exactly what kind of weapon was tested, nor its potential range.

Kim praised the weapon’s capabilities, the state-run agency reported.

“The development and completion of this weapons system will be a great historic event in strengthening the combat capability of the People’s Army,” he said, according to KCNA.

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

It added that the test, which was “conducted by various firing method on each 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.”

Message to United States and its allies?

Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies nuclear proliferation, said the weapon likely differs from the long-range missiles the North Korean regime has tested in the past few years.

“We don’t know what it is but if it’s another ‘tactical system’ like an MRLS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) or a coastal defense system, or air defense, it would seem to be consistent with Kim potentially reminding both the US and (South Korea) — in a calibrated way — where things could go, if the US especially doesn’t moderate its negotiating position.

“With rebuilding Sohae, continued activity at ballistic missile facilities and Yongbyon, and this, Kim seems to be suggesting ‘I’ve loaded my gun, but I am not going to fire … just yet,'” he said, referring to key testing facilities in North Korea.

Stalled talks

The test comes amid an apparent effort by the United States to jump-start high stakes nuclear talks with North Korea after a failed Hanoi summit earlier this year between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

In February, Trump and Kim left the Vietnamese capital without a deal, in part due to disagreements over trading sanctions relief for North Korea scaling back its nuclear program.

The February summit, the second since the two leaders met in Singapore last June, was expected to build upon their agreement to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Nuclear talks with Pyongyang have seemingly been stuck in neutral since the abrupt end to a summit.

Russia-North Korea summit expected

This week, United States Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is headed to Moscow amid rumors in South Korean media that Kim Jong Un is planning to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin soon.

Biegun’s trip appears to be the latest attempt by Washington to jump-start nuclear talks.

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