North Korea claims ‘breakthrough’ guided missile tested successfully

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

North Korea announced Friday the successful test of a high-precision, tactical guided missile, and its army threatened a “devastating” retaliation against South Korea for carrying out live fire drills near their maritime border.

The launch of the “cutting-edge” missile was watched by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the official Korean Central News Agency, which hailed the test as a “breakthrough” in national defense capability.

North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.

KCNA did not specify the timing of the test, but it appeared to coincide with the firing Thursday of what South Korea described as three short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan. South Korean defense officials said the projectiles flew about 190 km (120 miles).

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party, on Friday published pictures Kim attending the test of the new missile.

Kim reportedly stressed the weapon’s importance in providing a credible “pre-emptive” strike capability.

In Tokyo, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday that North Korea’s latest launch of projectiles will not prevent the two countries from holding talks next week on the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals, saying, the projectiles “have not affected the security of Japan.”

In Tuesday’s meeting, North Korea is expected to inform Japan of the leader and members of its special unit to investigate Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.

Some analysts have suggested that North Korea might seek to raise tensions ahead of an expected visit to South Korea next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But others said Friday’s announcement was simply aimed at talking up the North’s military capabilities as the international community seeks ways to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.