North Korean weapon test is short in range, long in mes­sage

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY CHOE SANG-HUN

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

Kim Jong Un’s test of what an­a­lysts said could be a new short-range guided or cruise mis­sile shows the North Korean leader re­vert­ing to saber rat­tling as he seeks to end sanc­tions that are de­rail­ing his hopes of re­ju­ve­nat­ing the North’s econ­omy.

Em­bar­rassed at home by the fail­ure to reach a peace deal with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing their re­cent sum­mit meet­ing in Viet­nam, he is strug­gling to re­gain lever­age over the United States with­out pro­vok­ing the pres­i­dent, an­a­lysts said on Thurs­day.

This week, Kim es­ca­lated pres­sure on Trump by re­sum­ing his vis­its to mil­i­tary units and weapons sites, which he has gen­er­ally re­frained from dur­ing his diplo­matic en­gage­ments with the Amer­i­can leader.

In a fur­ther sign of its ex­as­per­a­tion in deal­ing with the United States, North Korea said Thurs­day that while Kim’s re­la­tions with Trump re­mained good, ne­go­ti­a­tions could not con­tinue un­less Wash­ing­ton re­moved Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo from its team. It blamed his “med­dling” for the break­down of the Viet­nam meet­ing.

“Even if talks are re­sumed with the United States, I hope that we can have as an in­ter­locu­tor not Pom­peo but some­one else who is bet­ter in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and more ma­ture,” Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial in charge of U.S. af­fairs, told the North’s of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency.

Since the Viet­nam meet­ing, Kim has voiced mis­giv­ings about deal­ing with Trump or with Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in of South Korea, whose ef­forts to me­di­ate be­tween Kim and Trump have fal­tered. In a rare pol­icy speech last week, Kim told his peo­ple not to ex­pect sanc­tions relief any­time soon and to brace them­selves for a “pro­tracted” strug­gle against the United States. But he also said he would con­sider meet­ing Trump again if Wash­ing­ton of­fered a new deal that he could ac­cept by the end of the year.

Kim’s visit Tues­day to a mil­i­tary air­field put a spot­light on an air force that has been hit hard by sanc­tions, with its war­planes grounded by short­ages of fuel. In what an­a­lysts called a show of de­fi­ance against sanc­tions, the North Korean news me­dia re­leased pho­tos of fighter jets roar­ing off while Kim watched.

But it was Kim’s at­ten­dance at the test­ing of “a new-type tac­ti­cal guided weapon,” an­nounced Thurs­day, that was the clear­est sig­nal to Wash­ing­ton that the North’s tac­tics are hard­en­ing.

Amer­i­can, South Korean and Ja­panese of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment on what type of weapon North Korea tested, say­ing that they were still an­a­lyz­ing avail­able data. The pro­jec­tile cov­ered a short range, flying so low that it was not caught by the radar of the U.S. mil­i­tary’s North­ern Com­mand, which rou­tinely tracks North Korean mis­siles, said the South Korean news agency Yon­hap, quot­ing un­named de­fense sources.

The weapon was most likely a short-range guided mis­sile, like the Is­rae­li­made Spike mis­sile, which flies low and usu­ally cov­ers only a very short dis­tance, said Shin Jong-woo, a weapons ex­pert at Korea De­fense Forum, a Seoul-based net­work of mil­i­tary an­a­lysts.

KOREAN CEN­TRAL NEWS AGENCY NYT

A hand­out photo re­leased by North Korea’s Korean Cen­tral News Agency pur­port­edly shows Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, at a mil­i­tary air­field on Tues­day.

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