North Korea tests new weapon, state news agency says

by in News

By David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun

WASHINGTON — North Korea said Thursday it test-fired a new type of “tactical guided weapon,” in what appeared to be a warning from Kim Jong Un to President Donald Trump that unless once-promising negotiations with Washington resume, the two countries could again be on a collision course.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency did not specify what type of weapon was involved in the test. But there was no evidence the test involved a nuclear detonation or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The North has observed a voluntary moratorium of those tests since November 2017, and Trump has repeatedly said the North’s self-imposed suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests was one of his administration’s biggest achievements, and credited himself with averting war by first threatening the North with “fire and fury” and then initiating two face-to-face meetings with Kim.

But the latest of those meetings, in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, failed to reach an agreement, after Trump pulled back from agreeing to Kim’s proposal: a lifting of the harshest sanctions on the North in return for suspending operations at North Korea’s largest nuclear facility.

Experts said it was more likely the test announced Thursday morning in Pyongyang was a demonstration of a conventional weapons system, perhaps artillery or an anti-aircraft system, and amounted to signal-sending by Kim, who witnessed the test.

In recent days the North Korean leader has said he would give the United States until the end of the year to come up with concrete proposals that would lift sanctions on the North — an implicit warning that, after that deadline, it might resume the testing that appeared, in the summer of 2017, to be leading to conflict.

After the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, satellite imagery showed new activities at some of the North’s long-range rocket test and missile development sites.

Several days ago, appearing with South Korea’s president, Trump for the first time suggested he might be willing to entertain a “step-by-step” deal to denuclearization — contradicting his own senior aides, who had been insisting that only a full dismantlement of the North’s nuclear weapons, missiles and facilities would result in the lifting of sanctions.

During Thursday’s test of the weapon, which was conducted by the North’s Academy of Defense Science, Kim said its development “serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army,” the North Korean news agency said.