N. Korea May Have Tested New Long-Range Artillery: Source
(Source: Yonhap News Agency; issued Nov 16, 2018)
SEOUL --- North Korea's newly developed tactical weapon is thought to be a long-range artillery piece, a government source in Seoul said Friday, hours after Pyongyang's media reported on leader Kim Jong-un's supervision of its recent testing.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the communist leader oversaw the test of the "ultramodern" weapon and called it a "decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity" of his military.

"We presume it to be a new type of long-range artillery," the source said on condition of anonymity.

"This is a weapon that has been under development since the era of Kim Jong-il, and our intelligence authorities have continuously been following up on it," he added, referring to the North's former leader and late father of the current ruler.

The KCNA report came amid Pyongyang's sense of unease over Washington's insistence on maintaining sanctions until its final, fully verified denuclearization and the resumption of marine drills between South Korea and the United States.

Some observers raised the possibility that the weapon test might have been designed for the domestic audience to highlight the country's military prowess, given that, unlike "strategic" weapons, tactical ones do not pose a direct threat to a far-flung country like the U.S.

"The high-tech weapon may signal to North Korean citizens that the regime is continuously seeking to become a militarily strong country," a military source said on condition of anonymity. "The tactical weapon test also indicates that it may not be any show of force intended for the foreign audience."

However, the North's use of its mouthpiece to announce the test might reflect its dismay over a perceived lack of progress in negotiations between the U.S. and the North over denuclearization.

The North has been seeking "corresponding measures" from the U.S., such as an agreement to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War or sanctions relief, in exchange for its disarmament steps, such as the shutdown of its major nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex.

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N.K. Leader Inspects Test of New High-Tech Weapon Amid Stalemated Nuke Talks
(Source: Yonhap News Agency; issued Nov 16, 2018)
SEOUL --- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a test of a newly developed high-tech weapon, the North's state media reported Friday amid stalemated denuclearization talks with the United States.

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station said that Kim visited a testing site at a national defense institute and inspected the test of the unspecified new tactical weapon.

"The state-of-the-art weapon that has been long developed under the leadership of our party's dynamic leadership has a meaning of completely safeguarding our territory and significantly improving the combat power of our people's army," it said.

"The testing of the high-tech tactical weapon has been carried out successfully, meeting all superior and powerful designing indicators," it added.

It reported that Kim praised scientists, saying they have made yet another achievement, calling the successful testing a great innovation in enhancing its national defense capacity.

He added that the development of the weapon was spearheaded by his late father and former leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim was accompanied by Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party; Ri Pyong-chol, a senior official of the Munitions Industry Department; and Vice Department Director Jo Yong-won of the party's Central Committee.

The state media, however, did not specify what weapon was tested. The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the country's ruling party, briefly covered Kim's field inspection with just one photo.

This marked the first field inspection by the North Korean leader of a weapons test since November last year, when he viewed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

The inspection came as denuclearization talks between the North and United States have been stalled since their June 12 summit.

Uncertainty has been mounting over the denuclearization process after the high-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington were canceled at the last minute last week. The U.S. ascribed the cancellation to scheduling problems.

Observers said that the relatively understated report on a test of a new weapons system does not target overseas audiences but its own people and troops in a bid to ameliorate possible complaints over few tangible concessions in the process of denuclearization talks.

The North has wanted the U.S. to ease sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War as corresponding measures to what it sees as substantive measures, such as halting nuclear and missile tests for months and shutting down a nuclear test site.

The U.S. has said that there would be no sanctions relief until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program.

"At a time when the North has officially mentioned denuclearization, it seems to be inevitable to see discomfort from the military and people since it has failed to draw concessions from the U.S., such as the end-of-war declaration," said Kim Dong-yub, a professor of Kyungnam University.

Meanwhile, the unification ministry, which handles North Korean affairs, said that the North's leader has "intermittently' engaged in such military-related public activities, apparently trying to caution against putting too much significance on the recent episode.

The ministry added that the government presumes that the tactical weapon mentioned by the North might be a "conventional" one but noted that it is still analyzing what the high-tech weapon could be.

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