SEOUL – North Korea confirmed Friday it had conducted its third test-firing of a new “super-large” multiple rocket launcher the previous day, saying it expands Pyongyang’s ability to destroy enemy targets in surprise attacks.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency described the tests a day after the South Korean and Japanese militaries said they detected two projectiles launched from an area near the North Korean capital traveling more than 200 miles (over 320 kilometers) cross-country before landing in waters off the North’s eastern coast.
The North has continued to expand its military capabilities while pressuring Washington over their standstill in nuclear negotiations.
Experts say the North could continue to ramp up weapons demonstrations ahead of an end-of-year deadline set by leader Kim Jong Un for the U.S. to offer mutually acceptable terms to salvage a fragile diplomacy strained by disagreements over exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps.
Thursday’s launches followed statements of displeasure by top North Korean officials over the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and demands that the administration of President Donald Trump ease crippling sanctions and pressure on their country.
KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction over what North Korea described as a successful test of its new rocket artillery system, but it wasn’t clear whether he was actually at the site to observe the launches. The North previously tested the system in August and September. The latest test verified the “perfection” of the system’s continuous firing ability that allegedly allows it to “totally destroy” enemy targets with “super power,” the agency said.
In October, the North test-fired an underwater-launched ballistic missile for the first time in three years. The North has also tested new short-range ballistic missile and rocket artillery systems in recent months in what experts saw as an effort to use the standstill in talks to advance its military capabilities while increasing its bargaining power.
Negotiations have faltered after the collapse of a February summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi where the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for piecemeal progress toward partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.
The North responded with intensified testing activity while Kim said he would “wait with patience until the end of the year for the United States to come up with a courageous decision.”
Washington and Pyongyang resumed working-level discussion in Sweden in October, but the meeting broke down amid acrimony with the North Koreans calling the talks “sickening” and accusing the Americans of maintaining an “old stance and attitude.”
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