North Korea tests new ‘super-large’ multiple rocket launcher

By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a “newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher,” the country’s Central News Agency (KCNA) has said.

NKCNA said Saturday’s weapons test was successful and cited Mr Kim as saying the rocket launcher is “indeed a great weapon”.

Mr Kim underscored the need to “continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces,” according to the KCNA.

The “hostile forces” probably referred to the US and South Korea, whose recently ended regular military drills infuriated North Korea.

The North has called the drills an invasion rehearsal and conducted a slew of missile and rocket tests in response.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles after the test firing (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP/PA)

Some experts said North Korea aims to show off its weapons to try to get an upper hand before a possible restart of nuclear negotiations, which have been largely at a stalemate since the second summit between President Donald Trump and Mr Kim in Vietnam in February fell apart due to squabbling over US-led sanctions on North Korea.

The two leaders met again at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume talks.

Mr Trump played down the latest launch, saying “Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me … He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens.”

South Korea’s military said the North fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday morning and that they flew about 236 miles at the maximum altitude of 60 miles.

The North called the drill an invasion rehearsal (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP/PA)

It was the seventh known weapons test by North Korea in about a month.

The latest North Korean launches came two days after South Korea said it would terminate its intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid trade disputes between the US allies.

Washington expressed its disappointment at the South Korean decision.

In a development that could possibly further complicate ties between Seoul and Tokyo, South Korea’s navy on Sunday began two-day exercises around a group of islets controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan.

Japan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying the islets belong to Japan and called the drills “unacceptable”.