North Korean state media reported Sunday that leader Kim Jong Un had supervised a rocket and tactical guided weapons test on Saturday, after the drill sparked concerns that Pyongyang was deliberately provoking Washington amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the US.
However, the US response was unexpectedly conciliatory. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that Washington still saw “a path forward” in the denuclearization process.
The North last carried out a missile test in November 2017, before a rapid diplomatic rapprochement eased tensions on the Korean Peninsula and a series of summits were held.
A return to missile launches would likely anger US President Donald Trump, but the North’s official KCNA news agency shied away from the term in its report, saying Kim had ordered a “strike drill” involving “long-range multiple rocket launchers” – which are not targeted by UN sanctions resolutions – and unspecified “tactical guided weapons.”
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that an analysis of the launch indicated Pyongyang had tested “240-mm and 300-mm multiple rocket launchers and a new type of tactical guided weapons with a range of around 70 to 240 kilometers.”
The United States and North Korea have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a Trump-Kim summit in February, when the two sides clashed over sanctions and the extent of Pyongyang’s concessions on its atomic arsenal.
But despite the latest provocation from Pyongyang, Trump insisted that a breakthrough was possible.
“Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” Trump tweeted Saturday.
“He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” The US leader did not elaborate on Kim’s promise.
Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
Pompeo, speaking Sunday on ABC, said the rockets were relatively short range, had crossed no international boundary, had landed in waters east of North Korea “and didn’t present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan.”
He called the situation serious and said the US always knew the road to denuclearization would be “bumpy and a long one.”
However, Pompeo added, “We still believe there’s a path forward.”
– with reporting by AFP