North Korea says its leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the testing of a “new-type tactical guided weapon.” The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Kim supervised the test at the Academy of Defense Science on Wednesday.
The report offered few details about the weapon, except that it was test-fired at various targets, carried a “powerful warhead” and had a “peculiar mode of guiding flight.”
The U.S. and South Korean governments have so far not commented on the test.
“Tactical weapons are for attacking South Korea, not the U.S.,” Park Hwee Rhak, a political scientist at Kookmin University in Seoul, and a former South Korean army colonel, commented in a phone interview. “In these tense times, North Korea wouldn’t conduct a test lightly,” he added. “The weapon must be something that can pose a threat or incite terror,” and therefore is likely to contain some new technology or capability.
Last November, North Korea claimed to have tested an “ultra-modern” tactical weapon. No details have emerged as to what the weapon was.
North Korea has not tested any strategic weapons, such as nuclear devices or long-range missiles since late 2017. Kim has since set goals for “keeping munitions production going, and putting national defense science and technology on [a] cutting edge level.
Park Hwee Rhak says whether or not Wednesday’s test violates the North’s testing moratorium is a moot point, because the moratorium is unwritten and self-imposed, and not the result of any agreement.
Kim has also made efforts to avoid diplomatic isolation. He is expected to meet with Vladimir Putin as early as next week. Russia has urged the U.N. to ease sanctions on the North. U.S. special envy on North Korea Steven Biegun is in Moscow Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the expected visit.
If sanctions are not lifted, Kim Jong Un has the option of waiting out the Trump administration, as Kim is in his 30s, and barring unforeseen circumstances, could rule his country for decades to come.