SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a "super-large multiple rocket launcher", state media reported yesterday, further muddying the waters for any resumption of denuclearisation talks, prompting US President Donald Trump to say he was "not happy" about the test.
Pyongyang fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles last Saturday, Seoul's military said, the latest in a series of launches in recent weeks in protest against United States-South Korean joint military exercises, which wrapped up nearly a week ago.
Mr Kim said the "newly developed" system was a "great weapon", and expressed "high appreciation" for the scientists who designed and built it, reported North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
He added that the country needed to keep stepping up weapons development "for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces", KCNA said.
Photographs carried by the country's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a broadly grinning Mr Kim standing in front of an eight-wheeled launcher and rockets pointing out from the large canisters mounted on the vehicle.
Last Saturday's launch appeared to be "the fourth new missile system that North Korea has debuted since the Hanoi hold-up", tweeted Mr Vipin Narang, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been gridlocked since the second summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February collapsed without an agreement over the extent of denuclearisation in the North and sanctions relief.
The pair agreed to restart working-level dialogue during an impromptu meeting at the Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea in June, but those talks have yet to begin.
Mr Trump yesterday said he was "not happy" about the latest missile test but played down the seriousness of the incident.
"I'm not happy about it, but then again he's not in violation of the agreement," Mr Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France.
Following last Saturday's test, Mr Kim noted that Aug 24 was an "unforgettable good day", recalling successful tests of a "strategic submarine underwater ballistic missile" carried out on that day three years ago, KCNA reported.
Earlier this month, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Kim had sent him a letter expressing hope that talks would resume once the US-South Korean joint exercises - which ended last Tuesday - were over.
Last Friday, Pyongyang vowed to "remain as the biggest 'threat' to the US" if Washington persisted with sanctions and said that the joint drills between Seoul and Washington had "complicated" prospects for nuclear talks.