North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw testing of multiple rocket launchers, says KCNA

Kim observing flight drills by combat pilots at an undisclosed location.
Kim observing flight drills by combat pilots at an undisclosed location.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea has conducted a "strike drill" for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea in a military drill supervised by leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday, the North's state media reported on Sunday (May 5).

The purpose of the drill was to test performance of"large-calibre long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defence units," the Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim gave an order of firing and stressed the need to"increase the combat ability so as to defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance" of North Korea in the face of threats and invasions, the report said.

The statement came a day after the latest firing, which analysts interpreted as an attempt to exert pressure on the United States to give ground in negotiations to end the North's nuclear programme after a summit in February ended in failure.

It prompted Seoul to call on its communist neighbour to"stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula" on Saturday, while US President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post that he was still confident that he could have a deal with Kim.

The South Korean military initially described it as a missile launch, but subsequently gave a vaguer description.

Talks stalled after a second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi in February failed to produce a deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

North Korean had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missiles testing in place since 2017, which Trump has repeatedly pointed out as an important achievement from his engagement with Pyongyang.