North Korea says it conducted successful test of multiple rocket launchers

North Korea says it conducted successful test of multiple rocket launchers

A view shows the testing of what local media call a super-large multiple rocket launcher in North K
A view shows the testing of what local media call a super-large multiple rocket launcher in North Korea, in this undated photo released on March 28, 2020 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

SEOUL: North Korea's latest test of super-large multiple rocket launchers a day earlier was a success, state media said on Monday (Mar 30).

North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Sunday, the latest in a flurry of launches that South Korea decried as "inappropriate" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The North's official KCNA news agency said the launch was aimed at examining the strategic and technical features of the "super-large multiple rocket launchers," which has been tested multiple times since last August overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, ahead of deployment.

KCNA did not mention Kim's attendance at the latest test, led by ruling party vice chairman Ri Pyong Chol and conducted at the Academy of National Defense Science.

Images carried by the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed rockets blasting out of a launcher with six firing tubes, striking what appeared to be an island target. Kim was not seen in the photos.

"By Kim's absence, North Korea is trying to reduce the significance of the launch and stressing that the missile test is just a part of normal drills," said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The last time Kim was not seen at such an event was when the North test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile in October, just days before officials from Pyongyang and Washington were due to meet in Stockholm to rekindle stalled diplomacy.

However some analysts believe he was actually present, as some items he habitually uses were visible.

"The operational deployment of the weapon system of super-large multiple rocket launchers is a crucial work of very great significance in realising the party's new strategic intention for national defence," Ri was quoted as saying during the test, without elaborating.

"The test-fire was conducted successfully," KCNA added.

It marked the fourth round of tests this month since North Korea staged military drills and resumed missile launches following a three-month break.

VIRUS WARNINGS

The string of weapons drills come during a prolonged hiatus in disarmament talks with the United States and despite recent overtures from Washington offering help to contain the pandemic.

North Korea has closed its borders to try to protect itself from the novel coronavirus and is one of the few remaining countries yet to report a case of the disease that has killed almost 34,000 people worldwide.

But the virus is likely to have reached the secretive nation, it is widely believed, with health experts warning it could devastate the country given its weak medical infrastructure and widespread malnutrition.

READ: North Korea says Trump wrote to Kim, offered coronavirus cooperation

The day after another firing earlier this month, North Korean state media said Kim had received a letter from US President Donald Trump detailing a plan to develop ties - a move later confirmed by a White House official.

The report cited Kim's powerful sister Kim Yo Jong, who warned that the apparently good personal relationship between the two leaders would not be enough to foster broader relations.

Trump also "expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work", she said in a statement published by KCNA.

Analysts say the North has been continuing to refine its weapons capabilities more than a year after a summit between Kim and Trump broke down in Hanoi.

Negotiations have since been deadlocked over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return.

North Korea is under multiple sets of sanctions from the United Nations, United States and others over its banned weapons programmes.

Source: Reuters/nc

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