Latest missile test a warning, says Kim

Pyongyang tells S. Korean 'warmongers' to stop importing weapons, holding joint drills

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watching the test-firing of two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday. This is the first test since Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump last month and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watching the test-firing of two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday. This is the first test since Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump last month and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.PHOTO: KCNA/DPA

SEOUL • North Korea has said its latest missile test launch was a warning to South Korean "warmongers" to stop importing weapons and conducting joint military drills, a message that analysts said was also aimed at the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally watched the test-fire of two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday - the first test since Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump last month and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.

"We cannot but develop non-stop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the South," Mr Kim said, according to the North's state news agency KCNA.

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun cited Mr Kim as saying yesterday that the test was "a solemn warning to the South Korean military warmongers", and accused South Koreans of "double dealing" for saying they support peace but simultaneously importing new weapons and conducting military drills.

South Korea's leader should stop such "suicidal acts" and "should not make a mistake of ignoring the warning", Mr Kim said.

An official at Seoul's defence ministry said the projectiles were believed to be a new type of short-range ballistic missile, an assessment echoed yesterday by the US-South Korea Combined Forces Command (CFC).

A joint review with the US showed that both missiles flew some 600km, farther than similar previous missile tests, the defence official said.

The official also said the missiles bore features similar to Russia's SS-26 Iskander and the ones the North tested in May - a relatively small, fast missile that experts say is easier to hide, launch and manoeuvre in flight.

A spokesman for the CFC said in a statement that the launches were "not a threat directed at (South Korea) or the US, and have no impact on our defence posture".

Pyongyang has shown increasing frustration via state media that Seoul has not followed through on promised economic cooperation or peace agreements, all while importing the latest F-35 stealth fighters.

The KCNA report did not mention Mr Trump or the US, but said Mr Kim criticised the South Korean authorities for staging joint military exercises, which Mr Trump promised to end after his first meeting with Mr Kim in June last year in Singapore.

 
 

North Korea has accused the US of breaking that promise by planning to hold joint military exercises with South Korea next month and warned of a possible end to its freeze in nuclear and long-range missile tests.

While yesterday's message is very clearly directed at Seoul, it does send signals to Washington as well, said Dr Jenny Town, managing editor at 38 North, a project that studies North Korea.

She said: "On some level, this is like North Korea's version of maximum pressure on South Korea and the United States."

The US State Department urged Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations and hoped for a resumption of working-level talks on North Korea's denuclearisation.

When asked what message the Trump administration was taking from North Korea's launch of short-range missiles, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Fox News that prior to US-North Korea negotiations, Pyongyang had been engaged in activity "far more dangerous for America and Japan and for South Korea".

Mr Pompeo said that when Mr Kim met Mr Trump at the Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ, on June 30, he had agreed to "avoid launching intermediate-range and long-range ballistic missiles" and "put his negotiating team back in the game". He said fresh talks were still possible.

"You know, lots of countries posture before they come to the table," Mr Pompeo told Fox News.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2019, with the headline 'Latest missile test a warning, says Kim'. Subscribe