North Korea said Friday that the new missile test is a “solemn warning” to “South Korean military warmongers” over its weapons development and plans to hold joint military drills with the U.S.
South Korea’s military said the information about the weapon launched by the North on Thursday shows similarities to the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range missile with nuclear capabilities. A North Korean version of the missile could potentially reach all of South Korea — and the 28,500 U.S. forces stationed there — and would be especially hard to intercept, the military added.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test launch on Thursday, with pictures of him looking through binoculars released by the state media. The leader urged earlier this week to boost the country's defense capabilities and inspected a new submarine.
Pyongyang’s message comes amid its continued pressure campaign in the wake of the potential nuclear talks with President Trump.
Kim and Trump recently met on the Korean border where they supposedly agreed to continue the dialogue. But despite the promise, the U.S. and North Korean officials have been struggling to set up working-level talks.
Yet while North Korea was particularly harsh toward South Korea in its statement carried by the state media, it also stayed clear of the attacks on the U.S., signaling that the regime still seeks to have a dialogue.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the significance of the new missile test and told Bloomberg that a new round of talks with North Korea could begin “in a couple [of] weeks.”
“Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side,” Pompeo said of the launches.
But North Korea's statement was unequivocal in opposition to the South’s purchase of U.S.-made high-tech fighter jets and U.S.-South Korean plans to hold military drills this summer that the regime claims are rehearsals for an invasion.
It said the weapons test “must have given uneasiness and agony to some targeted forces enough as it intended” and accused South Korea of introducing “ultramodern offensive weapons.”
Kim said the new North Korean weapons are hard to intercept because of their “low-altitude gliding and leaping flight orbit,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported Friday. He added that the possession of “such a state-of-the-art weaponry system” is of “huge eventful significance” in boosting his country military capabilities.
Earlier this week, Kim ordered officials to beef up the regime’s military capabilities and was photographed inspecting a newly built submarine despite the potential revival of nuclear diplomacy with the U.S.
Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the new submarine that will be soon deployed and “stressed the need to steadily and reliably increase the national defense capability by directing big efforts to the development of the naval weapons and equipment such as submarine,” according to state media.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.