North Korea confirms second test of multiple rocket launcher

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said yesterday leader Kim Jong-un observed the test-launch of a super-large multiple rocket launcher, the latest in a series of weapons tests performed amid stalled diplomacy over the North’s nuclear programme.

Tuesday’s rocket launcher test was made hours after North Korea said it was willing to resume nuclear negotiations with the United States (US) in late September. While offering talks, North Korea still warned its dealings with the US may end if Washington fails to come to the negotiating table without new acceptable proposals.

Some experts said North Korea aims to wrest concessions from the US once their diplomacy resumes.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim, accompanied by top military and ruling Workers’ Party officials, supervised the two rounds of test-firings at an unidentified place on Tuesday.

It was the second known test of a super-large multiple rocket launcher that North Korea said is needed to cope with outside military threats. The first test of the weapon occurred on August 24.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a multiple rocket launcher site at an undisclosed location. PHOTO: AP

Tuesday’s test fulfilled its purpose and allowed authorities to decide “the next-stage orientation to complete the weapon system,” KCNA said. It quoted Kim as saying what remains to be done is “running fire test”.

Tuesday’s weapons test was the eighth round of launches by North Korea since late July. Other weapons tested include at least three other newly developed short-range missile and rocket artillery systems that experts said would potentially expand its capabilities to strike targets throughout South Korea. South Korea’s military said the two North Korean projectiles fired on Tuesday flew about 330 kilometres in the direction of the waters off the North’s east coast.

US-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of nuclear weapons collapsed after the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February ended without any agreement due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North. Kim and Trump met again at a Korean border village in late June and agreed to resume talks.

The North Korean weapons tested in the past weeks were all short-range, and the country is still keeping its promise not to carry out nuclear and long-range missile tests. This suggests North Korea is trying to maintain the momentum for dialogue with the US, experts said.