This footage, aired by the (North) Korean Central Television on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range missile being fired from a transporter erector launcher on the Hodo Peninsula near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on July 31 that North Korea fired multiple unidentified projectiles from the same area earlier in the day, six days after firing two short-range ballistic missiles from the peninsula into the East Sea in its first provocation since May. — YONHAP Photo
SEOUL — North Korea said on Thursday it tested a new rocket system in launches conducted the previous day, raising questions about South Korea's assessment that the nation is believed to have fired short-range ballistic missiles.
Leader Kim Jong-un "guided a test-fire of a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system on July 31," the Korean Central News Agency said.
"The test-fire scientifically confirmed that the tactical data and technical characteristics of the new-type large-caliber guided ordnance rocket reached the numerical values of its design, and verified the combat effectiveness of the overall system," the KCNA said.
"After learning about the result of the test-fire, (Kim Jong-un) said that it is very great and it would be an inescapable distress to the forces becoming a fat target of the weapon," it added.
The KCNA did not mention any country as its potential target, but the report appears to be referring to Seoul, which is apparently within the range of the weapon.
Other North Korean media outlets also reported on Wednesday's firing but did not provide photos on the tested weapons.
The reports came a day after South Korea's military said that North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast early on Wednesday, saying they were estimated to have flown about 250 kilometre at an approximate altitude of 30 km.
Hours later, South Korea held a National Security Council (NSC) meeting and expressed "strong" concerns over the launches, urging Pyongyang to stop acts that could heighten tensions and hamper efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
The latest firing came six days after North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from the same area into the East Sea in its first provocation since May.
Following last week's missile tests, North Korea called the launches a "demonstration of power" aimed at sending a "solemn" warning to South Korea over its joint military drills with the US slated for this month and purchase of high-tech fighter jets from the ally.
The series of weapons tests come as Washington has sought to restart working-level talks on dismantling the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs in line with an agreement reached when US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim held a surprise meeting June 30 at the inter-Korean border.
Despite the North's recent weapons tests, the US has remained upbeat about the prospects for talks with the North, with Trump dismissing last week's missiles as "smaller ones" that many countries test. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said on Monday (Washington time) he hoped the discussions will resume "very soon."
Calling the weapons tested this week missiles, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday that the launches do not represent a violation of leader Kim's promise not to conduct long-range missile tests.
Bolton known for his hawkish views on North Korea, however, questioned the regime's seriousness about resuming denuclearisation talks, as he spoke to Fox Business.
"The firing of these missiles don't violate the pledge that Kim Jong-un made to (US President Donald Trump) about intercontinental-range ballistic missiles," he said, referring to the North Korean leader's pledge to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.
According to US news reports, North Korean and US officials held a secret meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom last week, where the North Koreans expressed a willingness to resume working-level nuclear talks very soon. — YONHAP