North Korea claims it tested crucial new rocket launch system
Seoul, South Korea — North Korea said Thursday leader Kim Jong Un supervised the first test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance its ability to strike targets in South Korea and U.S. military bases there.
The report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency differed from the assessment by South Korea’s military, which had concluded Wednesday’s launches were of two short-range ballistic missiles.The launches from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan were North Korea’s second weapons test in less than a week and were seen as a move to keep up pressure on Washington and Seoul amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations. Pyongyang has also expressed anger over planned U.S.-South Korea military drills.
The United Nations Security Council was to meet behind closed doors Thursday, at request of Britain, France and Germany, to discuss North Korea’s recent missile launches.”The firing of these missiles doesn’t violate the pledge that Kim Jong Un made to the president (Trump) about (not testing) intercontinental-range ballistic missiles,” U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was quoted by the Reuters news service as telling Fox Business Network. “But you have to ask when the real diplomacy is going to begin, when the working-level discussions on denuclearization will begin.”KCNA said Kim expressed satisfaction over the test firing and said the newly developed rocket system would soon serve a “main role” in his military’s land combat operations and create an “inescapable distress to the forces becoming a fat target of the weapon.”The report didn’t directly mention the United States or South Korea, but experts say the rocket system, along with new short-range missiles the North tested last week, potentially could pose a serious threat to South Korea’s defense. North Korea places thousands of rocket launchers and artillery pieces near its border with South Korea, and its perceived ability to quickly devastate the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Koreans live, has been a central part of its strategy to deter military action from its rivals.KCNA provided no specific descriptions of how the “large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system” performed, but said the test confirmed the system’s “combat effectiveness.” North Korean state TV released still photos that showed Kim, smiling and equipped with binoculars, watching the launches from a viewing deck and a rocket soaring out of what appeared to be a launcher installed on a truck. The network obscured the images of the launcher and vehicle, apparently to limit outside analysis of the system.South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the weapons it assessed as missiles flew about 155 miles at an apogee of 19 miles, a range that would be enough to cover the region surrounding Seoul and a major U.S. military base just south of the city.U.S. officials told CBS News the weapons fired Wednesday appeared very similar to ones launched several days before, which were nuclear-capable and would be difficult for defense systems to track and destroy.