North Korea says weapons test involved 'long-range' capability
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: June 16, 2020 - 4:04pm

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

June 16, 2020 - 4:04pm

North Korea blew up a liaison office with the South in the border city of Kaesong on Tuesday, Seoul's Unification ministry says, after days of increasingly virulent rhetoric from Pyongyang.

"North Korea blows up Kaesong Liaison Office at 14:49," the office of the spokesman for the ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, says in a one-line alert sent to reporters. — AFP

March 2, 2020 - 12:04pm

North Korea fires an unidentified projectile on Monday, the South's military says, weeks after Pyongyang declared its moratorium on long-range missile tests over.

The statement from the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff gave no further details. The North carried out a series of weapons tests late last year. — AFP

January 1, 2020 - 3:51pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to skip his set-piece New Year speech Wednesday, with analysts suggesting the move may have been to avoid implicitly admitting mistakes in the last two years of diplomacy with the US.

Kim has been giving the annual speech since 2013, after he revived the tradition started by his grandfather -- North Korea's founding leader Kim Il Sung.

It has been a key moment in the North Korean political calendar, reviewing the past and setting out goals for the future, and printed in full in the Rodong Sinmun mouthpiece newspaper.

At first he wore a party uniform and stood at a lectern to address troops, but the format has evolved over time as Pyongyang modernises its messaging, and last year he sat in his office in a Western-style suit and tie.

But this year there was no January 1 morning broadcast -- as has been standard recently -- or even at noon, considered the latest likely time. -- AFP

January 1, 2020 - 12:08pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared an end to moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and threatened a demonstration of a "new strategic weapon" soon.

Analysts said the announcement, reported by state media on Wednesday, amounted to Kim putting a missile "to Donald Trump's head" -- but warned that escalation by Pyongyang would probably backfire.

Washington was swift to respond, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Kim to "take a different course" and stressing that the US wanted "peace not confrontation" with the North, while Trump played down the development.

Pyongyang has previously fired missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland, and has carried out six nuclear tests, the last of them 16 times the size of the Hiroshima blast, according to the highest estimates. -- AFP

December 29, 2019 - 9:21am

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has convened a key meeting of top ruling party officials, state media said Sunday, ahead of a year-end deadline for Washington to shift its stance on stalled nuclear talks.

The plenary session, which opened on Saturday, follows widespread speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile -- as a threatened "Christmas gift" for Washington.

Kim presided over the meeting which discussed a new "transparent, anti-imperialist independent stand", the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The ruling Workers' Party of Korea will also "discuss important matters arising... in the building of the state and national defence", KCNA added.

Talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula have been largely deadlocked since the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi at the start of this year. — AFP

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