North Korean state media showed pictures of Kim Jong Un personally supervising the Thursday test of what it called a “new-type tactical guided weapon.” U.S. and South Korean officials say the projectile was a short-range ballistic missile.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the test was meant “to send a solemn warning to the south Korean military warmongers who are running high fever in their moves to introduce the ultramodern offensive weapons into south Korea and hold military exercise in defiance of the repeated warnings.”
Complaints about South Korea
North Korea has repeatedly complained about South Korea’s recent acquisition of U.S. F-35 fighter jets, as well as upcoming U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. Pyongyang has warned it may not resume working-level talks with the United States if the drills take place.
“South Korean authorities show such strange double-dealing behavior as acting a ‘handshake of peace’ and fingering joint declaration and agreement and the like before the world people and, behind the scene, shipping ultra-modern offensive weapons and holding joint military exercises,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.
New type of missile
South Korea’s National Security Council expressed “strong concern” about the launch, which it determined was a “new type of short-range ballistic missile.” That is firmer than Seoul’s response after a similar North Korean launch in May. At the time, South Korea referred to the North Korean weapons as “projectiles.”
The U.S. military command in South Korea also assessed that North Korea tested a “new type of missile for the DPRK,” using an acronym for North Korea’s official name. “These two short range ballistic missiles were not a threat directed at the ROK or the U.S., and have no impact on our defense posture,” the statement said.
The test raises further doubts about working-level talks, which were supposed to resume shortly after last month’s meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
Trump, Pompeo optimistic
In an interview with the U.S. cable network Fox News, Trump was optimistic, saying he still gets along “very well” with Kim.
“They haven’t done nuclear testing. They really haven’t tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones. Which is something that lots test,” Trump said.
In an earlier interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he still believes negotiations will start soon.
“We’re working our way towards that. I think we’ll be able to pull that off in just a handful of weeks,” Pompeo said.
“North Korea has engaged in activity before we were having diplomatic conversations far worse than this. … I think this allows negotiations to go forward. Lots of countries posture before they come to the table,” he said.
Asked about Kim’s unveiling Tuesday of a newly built submarine that is apparently capable of handling nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, Pompeo said: “We all go look at our militaries. And we all take pictures of them.”
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is banned from conducting any ballistic missile activity. But Trump administration officials have said they do not see North Korea’s short-range tests as a breach of trust.
Kim last year declared a moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests. During their meeting at the DMZ last month, Kim also promised Trump that he would “continue to avoid launching intermediate range and long-range ballistic missiles,” Pompeo said Thursday.
At a State Department briefing Thursday, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the Trump administration’s focus is on continued diplomatic engagement with North Korea.
“And we continue to urge the North Koreans to resolve all of the things that the president and Chairman Kim (Jong Un) have talked about through diplomacy. We urge no more provocations, and that all parties should abide by our obligations under Security Council resolutions.”
Trump and Kim have held three meetings since June of last year. At their first meeting, both men agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But neither side has agreed on what that idea means or how to work toward it.
North Korea wants the United States to provide security guarantees and relax sanctions in exchange for partial steps to dismantle its nuclear program. Washington has insisted it will not ease sanctions unless Pyongyang commits to totally abandoning its nuclear program.
North Korea has given the United States until the end of the year to change its approach to the talks. Trump insists he is in no hurry to reach a deal, insisting his friendship with Kim will eventually persuade the young North Korean leader to give up his nuclear weapons.