North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un supervised Thursday’s test of what it called a “super-large multiple launch rocket system”, Pyongyang’s state media said Friday, hinting that it could be the last in that series.
Pyongyang fired what Seoul described as “unidentified projectiles” on Thursday — the Thanksgiving holiday in the US — South Korean officials said, as nuclear talks between the North and the United States remain deadlocked.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the weapons were ballistic missiles which represented “serious defiance” of the international community — Pyongyang is banned from such launches under UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and missiles programmes.
North Korea’s KCNA news agency released pictures of a smiling Kim attending the launch wearing a black leather trenchcoat, being applauded by fur-hatted troops.
It also showed an image of one of the rockets ascending into the evening sky in clouds of flame from a four-barrelled truck-mounted launching system.
The test “aimed to finally examine” the system’s combat abilities, and “proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability”, KCNA said, adding that Kim expressed “great satisfaction”.
The phrasing was an advance from a previous launch in September, when KCNA said that some aspects of it remained to be tested.
Kim had ensured that “lots of arms and equipment of powerful performance were developed and perfected this year for the military”, KCNA said.
The agency’s wording implied that Thursday’s test “may have been the last” in the super-large multiple rocket launcher system, said Rachel Minyoung Lee, senior analyst at specialist site NK News.
But she added: “There are no shortages of weapons North Korea can test this year, or even in 2020, if it wants to.”
It was the fourth test of the Pyongyang’s “super-large” system since August, and it has also fired other weapons in recent months as it seeks to up pressure on Washington.
Nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been at a standstill since the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un broke up in February, and Pyongyang has since demanded Washington change its approach by the end of the year.
Trump hinted at the prospect of a fourth meeting with Kim in a tweet earlier this month, only to be rebuffed by North Korea, which said it had no interest in summits “that bring nothing to us”.
In recent years, North Korea has tended not to carry out launches in December — the last was in 2015. – AFP