North Korea’s Kim Guides Test Fire of New Rocket Launcher

Maria Jose Valero

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea’s Kim Jong Un guided a test fire of a newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher on Saturday, setting the stage for one of the busiest weekends for missile firings since talks began with U.S. President Donald Trump more than a year ago.

The test firing comes after South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the same day North Korea launched two ballistic missiles, which Japan’s Coast Guard said had landed outside the country’s exclusive economic zone.

“The test-fire proved that all the tactical and technological specifications of the system correctly reached the preset indexes,” state news agency KCNA said, without specifying if that’s similar to the launches reported by South Korean and Japanese officials.

The missiles were launched from south Hamgyong in North Korea, the ministry said. The KCNA report didn’t say where the launcher was located.

Kim’s regime has conducted a series of short-range ballistic missile tests in recent weeks as he seeks a more favorable negotiating framework in nuclear talks with Trump. The U.S. leader has said the tests shouldn’t disrupt talks, so long as Kim doesn’t launch longer-range missiles that could strike America.

Trump and Kim first met in June 2018 in Singapore, followed by a second summit earlier this year in Hanoi that was abruptly cut short, jeopardizing talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. The two promised to restart working-level talks during their unprecedented June 30 meeting at the Demilitarized Zone.

South Korea’s presidential office expressed deep concern over North Korea’s continued missile launches, despite the fact that joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea had finished, according to a text message. It urged North Korea to halt action that raises military tension in the peninsula.

North Korea has issued several statements in recent days saying that military moves by the U.S. and South Korea are making it more difficult for the country to participate in talks. On Friday, North Korea’s top diplomat accused Secretary of State Michael Pompeo of undermining negotiations, even as Trump’s nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, was in Seoul.

Related story: North Korea Testing Missiles Faster Than Days of ‘Fire and Fury’

(Adds more details starting in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Jose Valero in New York at mvalero3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Polina Noskova at pnoskova@bloomberg.net, Linus Chua, James Ludden

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.