78°F
weather icon Clear

North Korea tests new ‘super-large’ rocket launcher

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Sunday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a “newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher,” another demonstration of the North’s expanding weapons arsenal apparently aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the U.S.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said that Saturday’s weapons test was successful and cited Kim as saying the rocket launcher is “indeed a great weapon.”

Kim underscored the need to “continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces,” according to KCNA.

The “hostile forces” likely referred to the United States and South Korea, whose recently ended regular military drills infuriated North Korea. The North has called the drills an invasion rehearsal and conducted a slew of missile and rocket tests in response.

Some experts said North Korea aims to show off its weapons to try to get an upper hand ahead of a possible restart of nuclear negotiations, which have been largely stalemated since the second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February fell apart due to squabbling over U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea. The two leaders met again at the inter-Korean border in late June and agreed to resume talks.

Trump downplayed the latest launch, saying, “Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me. … He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens.”

South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday morning, and that they flew about 380 kilometers (236 miles) at a maximum altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles). It was the seventh known weapons test by North Korea in about a month.

North Korea has been pushing to develop powerful multiple rocket launch systems, whose projectiles resemble short-range missiles, some experts said. On Aug. 1, North Korea said it tested a large-caliber multiple rocket guided system, a day after South Korea said the North fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

Most of the North Korean weapons tested in recent weeks have shown short-range flight distances. This suggests that North Korea still doesn’t intend to lift its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, which would certainly derail the negotiations with Washington.

The latest North Korean launches came two days after South Korea said it would terminate its intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid trade disputes between the U.S. allies. Washington expressed its disappointment at South Korea’s decision.

In a development that could possibly further complicate ties between Seoul and Tokyo, South Korea’s navy on Sunday began two-day exercises on and around a group of islets controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan. Japan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the islets belong to Japan and called the drills “unacceptable.”

South Korean navy officers said the drills are the first of two regular exercises held every year near the islets, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese. They said the drills involve aircraft landing on the islets and warships maneuvering nearby. Local media said South Korea originally planned the first drills in June, but delayed them in consideration of relations with Japan.

———

Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Man organizes hunting event for wheelchair users

A Utah man who has been in a wheelchair for more than three decades has created a pheasant hunt for people like him who need help getting into the outdoors.

Solid gold toilet stolen from Winston Churchill’s birthplace

A unique solid gold toilet that was part of an art exhibit was stolen early Saturday from the magnificent home in England where British wartime leader Winston Churchill was born.

Women’s Hall of Fame inducts Sotomayor, Fonda, Allred

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actress Jane Fonda and attorney Gloria Allred were among the inductees at the National Women’s Hall of Fame on Saturday.

No millennial bump for Buttigieg, but hints of broad appeal

Pete Buttigieg would like to turn the fight for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination into a contest about generational change. But there’s one looming problem: He has yet to win over his own.

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.

Saudi Arabia: Drone attacks knocked out half its oil supply

Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone attacks on the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia and a major oil field Saturday, sparking huge fires and halting about half of the supplies from the world’s largest exporter of oil.

Drug company attorneys seek to disqualify judge in opioid suit

CLEVELAND — Attorneys for eight drug distributors, pharmacies and retailers facing trial next month for their roles in the opioid crisis want to disqualify the federal judge overseeing their cases, saying he has shown bias in his effort to obtain a multibillion-dollar global settlement.