North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected the demonstration of a “new-type tactical guided weapon” on Thursday as a warning to South Korea to stop importing high-tech weapons and conducting joint military exercises with the United States, state media KCNA said on Friday.
North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, South Korean officials said, its first missile test since Kim and US President Donald Trump agreed to revive denuclearisation talks last month.
Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said the two missiles were launched just after dawn from Wonsan on the east coast. Both of the missiles North Korea fired on Thursday flew some 600km, an official at South Korea’s defence ministry said, citing a joint assessment of the launches with the US.
The KCNA report did not mention Trump or the US, but it said Kim criticised South Korean authorities for carrying on with joint exercises, which are usually conducted with US troops.
“We cannot but develop nonstop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the South,” Kim said, according to KCNA.
He accused South Koreans of “double dealing” for saying they support peace but simultaneously importing new weapons and conducting military drills.
There are close to 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea and their annual manoeuvres with South Korean soldiers have angered Pyongyang.
South Korea’s leader should stop such “suicidal acts” and “should not make a mistake of ignoring the warning,” Kim said.
Kim said he was satisfied with the rapid response and low-altitude trajectory of the weapon, which he said would make it difficult to intercept.
Seoul’s National Security Council said on Thursday it believed the missiles were a new type of ballistic missile, but it would make a final assessment with the US.
Ballistic missile tests would be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korean use of such technology. North Korea rejects the restriction as an infringement of its right to self-defence.
Al Jazeera’s Rob Mcbride, reporting from Seoul, said that there was a “growing sophistication” in the North Korean missile system.
“A South Korean defence ministry official said it [new missile] is based on Russian missiles. This has the capabilities of being pre-programmed to change course and direction mid-flight,” Mcbride said.
“Now there’s concern here in South Korea and Japan as it makes them even harder to intercept with anti-missiles system already in existence.”
South Korea, which had backed efforts by North Korea and the US to end years of hostility, on Thursday urged Pyongyang to stop acts that are unhelpful to easing tension and said the tests posed a military threat.
The US State Department urged Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations and said it still hoped for a resumption of working-level talks on North Korea’s denuclearisation.
“We urge no more provocations, and that all parties should abide by their obligations under (United Nations Security Council) resolutions,” said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
When asked what message the Trump administration was taking from North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News, “When the president and Chairman Kim were together now just a few weeks back in the DMZ, Chairman Kim made two commitments.”
“One, he said he’d commit not to conduct any nuclear tests and that he would continue to avoid launching intermediate-range and long-range ballistic missiles.
“He also said that he would put his negotiating team back in the game, that we’d have another round of negotiations, and we’re working our way towards that.”
Pyongyang carried out similar short-range launches in May, which Trump dismissed at the time as “very standard stuff” that would have no impact on his relationship with Kim.
Thursday’s launches came a day after US National Security Advisor John Bolton – an arch-hawk regularly vilified by North Korean state media – spoke with senior South Korean officials in Seoul.
On Tuesday, state news agency KCNA reported Kim inspecting a large, newly built submarine, accompanied by missile programme leaders. It potentially signalled continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programme.