North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the testing of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon”, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Friday, in a move that will raise the temperature over denuclearisation talks.
It marked the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since it began a delicate diplomatic process with Washington over its nuclear and missile programme.
“Kim Jong Un… visited the test ground of the Academy of Defence Science and supervised a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test,” said the official Korean Central News Agency.
It said the test was successful but did not specify the type of device involved.
Pyongyang’s suspension of testing for nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has been key to this year’s rapid diplomatic developments and North Korean-US negotiations, and has been repeatedly praised by President Donald Trump.
Trump and Kim met at a historic summit in Singapore in June, where they signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearisation of the peninsula.
Hours after the KCNA report, the US State Department said it was “confident” the process remained on track.
“At the Singapore Summit, President Trump and Chairman Kim made a number of commitments regarding final, fully verified denuclearisation and creating a brighter future for North Korea,” a statement said.
“We are talking with the North Koreans about implementing all of those commitments. We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled.”
Progress since Singapore has stalled as Washington and Pyongyang spar over the meaning of the document, and a return to testing would cast grave doubts over the future of the process.
The use of the word “tactical” in the KCNA report suggests that no long-range ballistic rocket or nuclear device was involved, and there was no immediate indication any such test had been detected by the South.
“By referring to it as a ‘tactical weapon’, it is sending a message that (the test) is not an armed provocation,” an official at Seoul’s defence ministry told reporters.
“It’s not appropriate for our military to view it as a provocation when North Korea has confirmed it is a high-tech tactical weapon test,” he added.
Citing an unnamed government source, Yonhap news agency reported that the weapon tested was likely to be new long-range artillery developed under Kim’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il.