Kim Jong-un oversees launch of 'new weapon': State media

Tuesday, 13 Aug, 2019

According to South Korean military experts, North Korea is testing a new rocket artillery system.

"Relevant ministers judged that the North's launch aims at verifying the performance of its new short-range projectile which it has self-developed", it said in a written Korean-language statement.

The president told reporters at the White House Friday that he had received a "very positive" missive from Kim, which he said was "three pages, right from top to bottom, a really lovely letter".

Earlier in the day, the US and South Korea kicked off the main part of their 10-day computer-simulated command post exercise. The warning comes just as Pyongyang test-fired two short-range missiles.

In an article from the official Korean Central News Agency, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson blasted South Korea for criticizing its recent launches.

Then on Saturday, Trump said Kim had expressed in a letter his willingness to meet and resume negotiations once the US-South Korean exercises are over. Noting that it was "a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive exercises,"... The leaders met at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, and Trump became the first sitting USA president to cross into North Korea.

By launching a slew of weapons that directly threaten South Korea but not the U.S. mainland or its Pacific territories, North Korea also appears to be dialling up pressure on Seoul to make stronger efforts to coax major concessions from the USA on Pyongyang's behalf, experts say.

They say Kim has kept his word by holding off testing a nuclear weapon or launching longer-range missiles capable of reaching the United States mainland.

The North's recent tests have dampened the optimism that followed the third and latest meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea on June 30 at the inter-Korean border.

During the past two weeks, the North has conducted a series of test launches.

Meanwhile, the North's director-general of the foreign ministry's department of American affairs, Kwon Jong-gun, warned Seoul that its participation in the exercise and denunciation of the recent missile tests put inter-Korean relations at risk.

"The constitutional revisions reinforce the shift Kim Jong Un has been trying to make away from the "military first" politics of his father's era, toward a new strategy of prioritizing economic development", said John Delury, a Korea expert at Seoul's Yonsei University.

Large solid-fuel rocket engines for North Korea's ballistic missile programme are most likely being produced at a factory complex in Hamhung, monitoring group 38 North said previous year. South Korean media said Saturday that North Korea fired two more unidentified projectiles into East Sea. Should Pyongyang signal increasing hostility, the US and South Korea might do well to arrange diplomatic talks both to quell increased tension and attempt to progress in the nuclear negotiations.