North Korea’s state media on Saturday confirmed it test-fired “multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons” into the sea on orders from dictator Kim Jong-un, who was said to have personally supervised the launches.
Voice of America on Monday quoted analysts who believe most of the weapons fired during the test were traditional rockets and artillery, but one of the launches “appears to be a newly-developed short-range ballistic missile,” which could be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
If confirmed, it would represent North Korea’s first ballistic missile test since November 2017.
CNN on Sunday published a perfectly-timed satellite photo of the launch which captured a smoke trail consistent with the flight of a short-range ballistic missile. Although the legality of this particular launch is debatable, analysts recalled North Korea has previously conducted short-range missile launches before testing major long-range weapons that clearly violate U.N. resolutions.
“This is a pretty classic move from them to start small and work their way up. It’s a warning that there’s more to come,” predicted Jeffrey Lewis of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute.
North Korean media made much of the weapons test, treating it as a major demonstration of military might that gave “great satisfaction” to Kim Jong-un:
After setting the sequences and methods of strike, the Supreme Leader gave an order of firing.
Praising the People’s Army for its excellent operation of modern large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons, he said that all the service members are master gunners and they are capable of carrying out duty to promptly tackle any situation as a result of full knowledge of modern weapon system and intensive training. He spoke highly of the successful striking drill though it was organized without an advance notice.
Expressing great satisfaction with the rapid response ability of those defence units in the frontline area and on the eastern front to keep them fully ready to go into combat action immediately upon the issuance of order any moment, he gave important instructions for improving and strengthening the operation and combat drill of the People’s Army.
He stressed the need for all the service members to keep high alert posture and more dynamically wage the drive to increase the combat ability so as to defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance of the country and the gains of revolution and the security of the people from the threats and invasion by any forces, bearing in mind the iron truth that genuine peace and security are ensured and guaranteed only by powerful strength.
An editorial from North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun on Monday called on all North Koreans to develop more advanced technology and “bring about a great surge in socialist construction” to protect the “gains” of the Communist revolution:
The development of science and technology means vitality given to grand march of self-reliance, increase in the country’s independent development ability and accelerated advance of socialism.
It is a stark reality that science and technology will make a country demonstrate its dignity and might as a power when developed, but make it economically dependent and face collapse when backward.
The DPRK can successfully conquer any high-tech fortress and beat the world as it has a firm foundation of the self-supporting economy and powerful scientific and technological forces.
All officials, scientists and working people should bear in mind the Party’s intention which made the development of science and technology a top priority of the state and a desire of utmost importance in the revolution, and achieve leaping successes in succession in the field of science and technology by displaying indomitable will and revolutionary enthusiasm.
The South Korean government condemned the launch as “needlessly provocative and a violation of an inter-Korean military agreement,” according to Chosun Ilbo, but U.S. officials including President Donald Trump did not regard it as a deal-breaker.
“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong-un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea and will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” Trump said on Twitter soon after South Korea confirmed the North Korean weapons test.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday the U.S. does not believe the short-range missile launch was a violation of U.N. resolutions.
“At no point was there ever any international boundary crossed. They landed in the water east of North Korea and didn’t present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan. We know that they were relatively short range. And beyond that, we know that they weren’t intercontinental ballistic missiles either,” he said.
“We still believe that there’s an opportunity to get a negotiated outcome where we get fully verified denuclearization. So we hope that this act that he took over the weekend won’t get in the way. We want to get back to the table. We still believe there’s a path forward,” Pompeo said of Kim Jong-un’s decision to conduct the weapons test.