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(3rd LD) N.K. leader supervises test-fire of new tactical guided weapon: KCNA

10:29 April 18, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details, expert's comments in paras 6-8, 10)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has supervised a test-firing of a new tactical guided weapon, calling its development an "event of very weighty significance" in beefing up its military power, state media reported Thursday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the test happened Wednesday but did not specify what the newly developed weapon was. It was the first time since November the North's leader has overseen a weapons testing, and the visit to the testing center came a day after he visited an air force unit.

"Saying that the completion of the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army, he noted that it is a very good thing that the field of national defense science has waged a dynamic struggle for attaining core research goals," the KCNA said of Kim.

"After watching the power of the new-type tactical guided weapon, he pointed out that our national defense scientists and workers in the field of the munitions industry performed another great work in increasing the country's defense capabilities," the KCNA said.

Kim also set the "phased and strategic goals" for maintaining his country's munitions production, putting national defense science and technology on a "cutting edge level," and ordering "detailed tasks and ways to attain them."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a flight drill of the North's Air and Anti-aircraft Force on April 17, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on April 18. As is customary, the agency didn't provide the location. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Experts said the new weapon could be a newly developed short-range guided or cruise missile. They also said Kim's attendance at the test-firing could be aimed at sending a warning message to the United States without becoming overly provocative.

"Kim is trying to make a statement to the (Donald) Trump Administration that his military potential is growing by the day, and that his regime is becoming frustrated with Washington's lack of flexibility in recent negotiations," said Harry Kazianis, director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest, in an emailed comment.

The test-firing came after Kim suggested a year-end deadline for denuclearization negotiations following the breakdown of his February summit with Trump in Vietnam.

February's summit between Kim and Trump fell apart as they failed to find common ground over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with Washington's sanctions relief.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang's media said that the North Korean leader visited an air force unit and reviewed a flight exercise in his first public inspection of military activities in five months.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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