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(3rd LD) N.K. leader inspects test of new high-tech weapon amid stalemated nuke talks

North Korea 15:18 November 16, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS more info in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a test of a newly developed high-tech weapon, the North's state media reported Friday amid stalemated denuclearization talks with the United States.

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station said that Kim visited a testing site at a national defense institute and inspected the test of the unspecified new tactical weapon.

"The state-of-the-art weapon that has been long developed under the leadership of our party's dynamic leadership has a meaning of completely safeguarding our territory and significantly improving the combat power of our people's army," it said.

"The testing of the high-tech tactical weapon has been carried out successfully, meeting all superior and powerful designing indicators," it added.

It reported that Kim praised scientists, saying they have made yet another achievement, calling the successful testing a great innovation in enhancing its national defense capacity.

He added that the development of the weapon was spearheaded by his late father and former leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim was accompanied by Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party; Ri Pyong-chol, a senior official of the Munitions Industry Department; and Vice Department Director Jo Yong-won of the party's Central Committee.

The state media, however, did not specify what weapon was tested. The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the country's ruling party, briefly covered Kim's field inspection with just one photo.

This marked the first field inspection by the North Korean leader of a weapons test since November last year, when he viewed the testing of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

The inspection came as denuclearization talks between the North and United States have been stalled since their June 12 summit.

Uncertainty has been mounting over the denuclearization process after the high-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington were canceled at the last minute last week. The U.S. ascribed the cancellation to scheduling problems.

Observers said that the relatively understated report on a test of a new weapons system does not target overseas audiences but its own people and troops in a bid to ameliorate possible complaints over few tangible concessions in the process of denuclearization talks.

The North has wanted the U.S. to ease sanctions and declare an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War as corresponding measures to what it sees as substantive measures, such as halting nuclear and missile tests for months and shutting down a nuclear test site.

The U.S. has said that there would be no sanctions relief until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program.

"At a time when the North has officially mentioned denuclearization, it seems to be inevitable to see discomfort from the military and people since it has failed to draw concessions from the U.S., such as the end-of-war declaration," said Kim Dong-yub, a professor of Kyungnam University.

Meanwhile, the unification ministry, which handles North Korean affairs, said that the North's leader has "intermittently' engaged in such military-related public activities, apparently trying to caution against putting too much significance on the recent episode.

The ministry added that the government presumes that the tactical weapon mentioned by the North might be a "conventional" one but noted that it is still analyzing what the high-tech weapon could be.


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