This May 9, 2019 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 10, 2019 shows rocket launchers firing during the strike drill of defence units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in the forefront area and on the western front of North Korea.
AFP/KCNA via KNS
North Korea says weapons test involved 'long-range' capability
Sunghee Hwang, Kang Jin-kyu (Agence France-Presse) - May 10, 2019 - 9:14am

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Friday it had tested a long-range weapon, a claim that was likely to raise tensions on the peninsula and contradicted accounts from the South and in the US that Pyongyang had fired short-range missiles.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un had overseen Thursday's weapons test, the second in less than a week amid tensions with the US over their fitful drive to reach an agreement under which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.

"At the command post, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un learned about a plan of the strike drill of various long-range strike means and gave an order of start of the drill," KCNA said, adding that the drill was successful.

KCNA did not say what kind of weapon was fired. It avoided using the words missile, rocket or projectile.

The update came amid increasingly strained ties with the US as President Donald Trump said Thursday he thought Kim was not ready to negotiate denuclearisation.

In New York, federal authorities said a North Korean freighter had been seized on grounds of violating UN sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.

The officials said Wise Honest -- an 18,000-ton, single hull bulk carrier -- had exported high-grade coal and brought back machinery to the impoverished and reclusive country.

During an event at the White House, Trump said US authorities were looking at the latest projectile launches "very seriously."

"They were smaller missiles, short range missiles. Nobody's happy about it," Trump told reporters.

"The relationship continues. But we'll see what happens. I know they want to negotiate, they're talking about negotiating. But I don't think they are ready to negotiate."

Two Trump-Kim summits, the most recent in Vietnam in February, have produced no tangible progress toward persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Thursday's missile firing came after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, with at least one believed to be a short-range missile.

'An element of protest'

The North had not previously fired a missile since November 2017, shortly before a rapid diplomatic thaw eased high tensions on the peninsula and paved the way for a historic first meeting between Kim and Trump.

But the summit in Vietnam broke up without an agreement rolling back Pyongyang's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief or even a joint statement, leaving the North frustrated.

Thursday's launch came hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, in his first visit since the Hanoi summit.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Pyongyang's latest move had "an element of protest and is a pressuring action to steer the nuclear talks in a direction it desires".  

"It appears the North is highly displeased that the Hanoi summit ended without agreement," he said in an interview marking his first two years in office. 

But he added: "Whatever North Korea's intentions might have been, we warn that it could make negotiations more difficult."

The North "fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles" from Kusong in North Pyongan province, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement, updating its earlier assessment that the launch was from Sino-ri in the same province. 

The JCS added the missiles flew eastwards for 270 and 420 kilometres (170 and 260 miles) and the South Korean and US militaries were jointly analysing them.

Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington had all refrained from explicitly calling Saturday's launch a missile -- the South used the term "projectile" -- which could jeopardise the ongoing diplomacy if it violated UN Security Council resolutions against ballistic technology as well as Kim's announcement of an end to long-range missile tests.

Experts said at least one short-range ballistic missile was involved on Saturday, with a report on the respected 38 North website saying debris left by the launch suggested it was a "direct import" of a Russian-produced Iskander.

If North Korea had imported Iskanders from Russia, the report added, "it has an existing capacity to deliver warheads to targets in South Korea with great precision".

A summit between Moon and Kim a year ago was instrumental in lowering the temperature, but since the Hanoi summit the North has blamed Seoul for siding with Washington, leaving inter-Korean relations in limbo.

NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR WEAPONS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 9, 2019 - 6:54pm

South Korean officials were briefing the White House Thursday on the outcome of their pathfinding meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Seoul has already publicized that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties, a potential diplomatic opening after a year of escalating tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests. The rival Koreas also agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April.

Top Trump administration officials were getting a chance to hear firsthand from South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, who led the delegation that went to Pyongyang. — Associated Press

May 9, 2019 - 6:54pm

Weapons fired by North Korea Thursday appeared to be two separate missiles, the South's military says, in what was Pyongyang's second launch in less than a week.

The North "fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles" from North Pyongan province, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding they flew 270 and 420 kilometers and the South Korean and US militaries were jointly analyzing them. -- Agence France-Presse

May 9, 2019 - 6:49pm

Weapons fired by North Korea Thursday appeared to be two separate missiles, the South's military says, in what was Pyongyang's second launch in less than a week.

The North "fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles" from North Pyongan province, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding they flew 270 and 420 kilometers and the South Korean and US militaries were jointly analyzing them. -- Agence France-Presse

March 9, 2019 - 6:12pm

US news outlet NPR has reports that North Korea may be preparing for a missile or space launch, based on satellite image analysis of a key facility near Pyongyang.

NPR says the images of Sanumdong, one of the facilities Pyongyang has used to produce inter-continental ballistic missiles and space rockets, were taken days before US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi for their high-stakes summit, which ended in failure. — AFP

January 10, 2019 - 9:02am

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed "concern" about the deadlock in denuclearisation discussions in his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pyongyang's state media reported Thursday.

Kim "raised concern about the impasse created in the process of improving US-DPRK ties and in denuclearisation talks", the official KCNA news agency said.

Kim said Pyongyang's "basic position of pursuing a peaceful resolution through dialogue remains unchanged", it added.

China is the North's main diplomatic backer and key trade partner, whose forces were instrumental in fighting for it during the 1950-53 Korean War. 

According to KCNA, Beijing issued a ringing endorsement of the North's position. -- Agence France-Presse

November 23, 2018 - 9:14am

The head of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog has called on North Korea to allow inspectors back into the country to monitor its nuclear program.

Speaking at a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Director General Yukiya Amano notes that Pyongyang had in September talked about denuclearization measures including the "permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon" — a reactor where it produces plutonium. — AP

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