North Korea test-fires new weapon

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 20, 2019

A series of nuclear and missile tests by North Korea in 2016-17 sharply raised tensions as Trump and Kim traded threats of war.

A statement quoting senior North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun, reported by the Korean Central News Agency and picked up by Reuters, said that whenever Pompeo "pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong without any results even from the point close to success".

It is unclear if the weapon was a missile, but most observers agree that it was probably a short-range weapon.

Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the United Nations Jang Il Hun, right, is joined by councilor Kwon Jong Gun as he speaks during a new conference, July 28, 2015, at the DPRK mission in NY. The leader said that the development was "of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army". He said the newly tested weapon was likely a cruise missile that could be launched from the ground, sea or air. "The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation". Pompeo's special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun wrapped up a visit to Moscow on Thursday during which he met Russian officials to discuss the state of the negotiations, the State Department said.

Russia, which wields veto power on the United Nations Security Council, has expressed repeated support for reducing sanctions since North Korea opened nuclear talks a year ago.

Instead, the North has carried out smaller provocations.

Harry Kazianis, the Korean studies director for the USA -based Center for the National Interest, noted that Kim never promised to stop all weapons testing.

He added that US diplomats led by Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun would continue efforts to achieve North Korea's denuclearization, which he said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un committed to last June.

The test is the first since a February summit in Hanoi between the countries' leaders ended without an agreement.

During a speech at Texas A&M on Monday, Pompeo said Kim promised to denuclearize during his first summit with Trump and that USA officials were working with the North Koreans to "chart a path forward so we can get there".

Little concrete progress has been achieved, however, and United Nations sanctions over the North's nuclear programme remain in place. Kim has only offered limited steps toward denuclearization.

The United States was aware of the North Korean foreign ministry's demand regarding Pompeo, the spokesperson added, but did not provide any further comment.

Kim's Hanoi summit with Trump, the second between the two men, ended abruptly, with North Korea later protesting that the U.S. was being unreasonable in its demands.

The last summit between a Russian and North Korean head of state came in 2011 when Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, travelled to Siberia to meet Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's then president.

Ties between the Soviet Union and then Russian Federation with North Korea run deep.

Regardless, the weapon doesn't appear to have been nuclear-capable, since usually such arms are referred to as "strategic", rather than "tactical".

Kim praised the weapon's capabilities, KCNA reported.

"It's not as flagrant a violation as an [intercontinental ballistic missile] test".

"Pyongyang is used to the pendulum diplomacy under which it carefully weighed which one would better support it, opted for one and put pressure on the other (not favorable to its interests)", Kim Heung-kyu, a professor of Chinese diplomacy at Ajou University, said.

But some observers say that given that both Beijing and Moscow have been committed to promoting stability in the region when they already have their hands full with a slew of domestic issues, they might not let the North Korea issue strain their ties.

The latest announcement came after reports of new activity at a site where the North was believed to build long-range missiles.

"In the past, these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns", the report said.

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