North Korea fired two projectiles from a reported “super-large” rocket launcher, the South Korean military said on Thursday, expressing “strong regret” over the provocation.
North’s Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) confirmed the launches on Friday, claiming they left dictator Kim Jong-un in a state of “great satisfaction.”
“The volley test-fire aimed to finally examine the combat application of the super-large multiple launch rocket system proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability,” the agency said in a news bulletin. “The Supreme Leader expressed great satisfaction over the results of the test-fire.”
“The commanders of the large combined units of the KPA sincerely extended their congratulations and gratitude to the Supreme Leader who saw to it that lots of arms and equipment of powerful performance were developed and perfected this year for the military and technical strengthening of the KPA,” it continued.
Thursday’s test was the fourth test-launch of the rocket launcher since August, raising further doubts over the credibility of the communist-ruled country’s determination to reach a peace agreement with the United States and South Korea. As no participant signed a peace treaty following the armistice agreed to on the Korean War in 1953, the states remain technically at war.
South Korean army spokesperson Army Major Gen. Jeong Dong-jin said the tests were “presumed to be fired from a super-large caliber multiple rocket launcher.”
“This North Korean action does not aid the easing of tension on the Korean Peninsula,” said Jeong. “We express a strong regret and again call for immediate suspension of actions that heighten tension.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also weighed in on the incident, stating that although his government had not confirmed if the missiles landed in Japanese territory, the tests remained a “serious threat to the international community.”
Abe added that his country continues to maintain “close contact with the US, South Korea, and the international community to monitor the situation and to protect the safety and assets of the Japanese people.”
The latest round of tests also comes following a report from the Brookings Institution arguing that China is ready to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and the West can no longer rely on it to uphold sanctions with the aim of denuclearization.
The report, titled “Lips and Teeth: Repairing China-North Korea Relations,” points to a “revitalized relationship” between the two countries as a result of increased tensions between Beijing and Washington. This month, a senior North Korean minister indicated that Pyongyang is no longer interested in holding talks with the U.S. over their steadfast refusal to lift sanctions against the regime.
A recent study by the Heritage Foundation found that Pyongyang still “poses definite threats to the U.S. homeland,” as well as American military bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam, as it continues to accelerate attempts to bolster its nuclear arsenal