SEOUL (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the testing of a super-large multiple rocket launcher on Tuesday (Sept 10), North Korean state media KCNA said on Wednesday.
North Korea fired a new round of short-range projectiles on Tuesday, South Korean officials said, only hours after it signalled a new willingness to resume stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States in late September.
Mr Kim, military leaders and top officials "in the field of national defence science" saw two rounds of test fire on Tuesday of "tactical guided weapons including super-large multiple rocket launcher", the official Korean Central News Agency said a day after the launches.
Mr Kim, who had guided the testing of the same multiple rocket launcher before, said its capabilities have been "finally verified in terms of combat operation", and what remains to be done with the rocket launcher is a "running fire test", KCNA said, without elaborating on what the test would entail.
It also released photos of the test that showed a smiling Mr Kim, who has been on hand for almost all of his state’s series of missile and weapon tests that started in May, standing by a launcher
Mr Kim ordered future tasks and ways to "steadily" attain cutting-edge national defence to officials that had joined him, including senior officials such as his sister Kim Yo Jong, KCNA said.
The test appeared to be of 600mm calibre multiple-launch rocket system that North Korea first introduced last month, said Mr Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.
Mr Panda added that the trajectory varied considerably from the previous test, suggesting North Korea was exploring what this system was capable of.
"The North Korean statement hints at further testing, including possibly a so-called ‘ripple’ fire test, where they look to rapidly fire all of the four missiles this system can carry in one salvo," said Mr Panda, who covers nuclear and conventional force developments in Asia.
While analysts said North Korea conducts weapons tests for a range of purposes, including technical development and reassurance for the defence establishment, Tuesday's launches appeared to have been timed to send a message to Washington, such as what may happen if the United States doesn't come to talks with North Korea with realistic proposals.
Although US President Donald Trump has played down previous tests this year, saying he did not believe short-range missiles violated any agreements, now-ousted national security adviser John Bolton had said even short-range launches by North Korea are banned under US resolutions.
Tuesday's test came shortly after a top North Korean diplomat, Ms Choe Son Hui, issued a statement saying the country would be willing to hold talks "at the time and place to be agreed late in September".
North Korea often ratchets up military tensions ahead of negotiations intended to end its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea was due to come into focus when UN General Assembly meeting starts next week in New York after a UN Security Panel report said Pyongyang was violating sanctions to help fund its weapons programme.
South Korea’s top nuclear envoy was due to go to China, the main benefactor of Mr Kim’s government, this week to discuss developments on the divided peninsula.