Kim Jong Un oversaw the testing of a “newly developed ultramodern” tactical weapon, state media reported Friday, days after Donald Trump claimed he was keeping the North Korean despot in line.
The trial was held at the testing ground of the Academy of Defence Science in Pyongyang, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which called it a “decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity" of the regime’s military.
The report describes Kim as “excited” after witnessing the successful test, without revealing what type of weapon was demonstrated.
A South Korean official said the weapon is thought to be a new type of long-range artillery, news agency Yonhap reported, though nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis warned that Seoul had previously misidentified similar weapons.
Kim is quoted as saying the test “serves as another striking demonstration of the validity of the Party policy of prioritizing defense science and technology and the rapidly developing defense capability of the country and as a decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity of the Korean People's Army.”
Friday’s revelation marks the first time Kim has attended a military event since his high-profile meeting with Trump in Singapore in June. At that meeting, Kim promised to halt all missile tests, a promise he has so far kept.
The tactical weapons test may not be viewed as an act of provocation by Seoul or Washington, but tensions continue to rise in Pyongyang over the White House’s insistence that sanctions remain in place until full denuclearization has been achieved.
A North Korean government spokesperson said on Nov. 5 that if the U.S. doesn't start removing sanctions on Pyongyang, Kim could restart “building up nuclear forces.”
“I think [the test] is a warning of what might be to come if Trump doesn't lift sanctions,” Lewis told VICE News.
Asked last week about the lack of movement on North Korea denuclearization, Trump told reporters: “We are in no rush. The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”
Vice President Mike Pence revealed Thursday that the U.S. would drop its demand that a full list of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile sites be presented before a second Trump-Kim summit.
“I think it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites, allowing for inspections of the sites and the plan for dismantling nuclear weapons,” Pence told NBC.
A report published this week outlined more than a dozen secret missile bases that have been developed by North Korea since the Singapore Summit.
Cover image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects Samjiyon County, in this undated photo released on October 30, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA/via REUTERS)