North Korea has test-fired a “new-type of tactical guided weapon”, state media in the secretive communist country have reported.
The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, observed the firing by the Academy of Defence Science of the unspecified weapon, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed. Mr Kim was reported to have said that “the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army”.
It is thought the move could be an attempt to register the country’s displeasure with currently deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States without causing those coveted negotiations to collapse.
After a failed nuclear disarmament summit between Mr Kim and US president Donald Trump in the Vietnamese city of Hanoi earlier this year, the two sides have had little reported contact.
There have been worries among observers that the pariah state would turn to weapons testing – which it has largely halted since a series of tests in 2017 had many fearing war.
The Independent could not immediately verify North Korea’s claim of the weapons test, and it was not immediately clear what had been tested.
However, it is thought that it was not a banned ballistic missile test, which would jeopardise diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for disarmament.
One of the lower level officials mentioned in the North’s report on the test – Pak Jong Chon – is known as an artillery official.
The test comes amid reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research centre and long-range rocket site where the North is believed to build missiles targeting the US mainland.
Kim mounted an observation post to learn about the test-fire of the new type of tactical guided weapon and to guide the test-fire.
This is the first known time Kim Jong-un has observed the testing of a newly developed weapon system since last November, when North Korean media said he observed the successful test of an unspecified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon”. Some observers have been expecting North Korea to orchestrate “low-level provocations”, like artillery or short-range missile tests, to register its anger over the way nuclear negotiations were going.
The White House said it was aware of the report and had no comment.
Washington has previously said it will not allow the North’s desired sanctions relief until the nation commits to verifiably relinquishing his nuclear facilities, weapons and missiles.
Mr Kim has shown no signs that he is willing to give away an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Agencies contributed to this report