SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has supervised the test of a new anti-aircraft weapon system, and ordered its mass production and deployment throughout the nation, said the state news agency, after weeks of defiant ballistic missile tests.
The North's KCNA news agency yesterday did not report the exact nature of the weapon or the time of the test, but said it was organised by the Academy of National Defence Science, a blacklisted agency that is believed to be developing missiles and nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang has been pushing to develop a wide range of weapon systems at an unprecedented pace since early last year, including a long-range missile capable of striking the United States mainland. In recent weeks, North Korea has also tested its intermediate-range ballistic missile, making some technical advances.
The North rejects United Nations sanctions and unilateral sanctions by other states against its weapons programme as an infringement of its right to self-defence. It says the programme is necessary to counter US aggression. It last conducted a ballistic missile test a week ago.
The US denies any intention to attack North Korea.
"Kim Jong Un... watched the test of a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon system organised by the Academy of National Defence Science," KCNA said yesterday.
"This weapon system, whose operation capability has been thoroughly verified, should be mass-produced to deploy all over the country... so as to completely spoil the enemy's wild dream to command the air, boasting of air supremacy and weapon almighty."
KCNA said Mr Kim was accompanied by his military aides, and listed the three men believed to be the top officials in the North's rapidly accelerating missile programme.
They are Mr Ri Pyong Chol, a former top air force general; Mr Kim Jong Sik, a veteran rocket scientist; and Mr Jang Chang Ha, who heads the Academy of National Defence Science, a weapon development and procurement centre.
North Korea said last Monday that it had successfully tested what it called an intermediate-range ballistic missile that met all technical requirements and could now be mass-produced, although outside officials and experts questioned the extent of its progress.
Last Tuesday, US Defence Intelligence Agency director Vincent Stewart said North Korea, if left unchecked, would be on an "inevitable" path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile able to strike the US. Appearing at a Senate hearing, he declined to offer a time estimate, but Western experts believe the North still needs several years to develop such a weapon.