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(3rd LD) N. Korea says it fired new tactical guided weapon in 'warning' against Seoul

All Headlines 11:54 July 26, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with JCS' correction of flight range, Trump's remarks, new photos, minor edits)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has fired its "new tactical guided weapon" under leader Kim Jong-un's guidance in a demonstration of power, state media reported Friday, a day after the communist state launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea.

The firings were aimed at sending a "solemn warning" to "South Korean military warmongers" who are introducing "ultramodern offensive weapons into South Korea" and pushing to "hold (a) military exercise in defiance of the repeated warnings" from the North, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"(Kim) emphasized that we cannot but develop nonstop super powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the South," it said in English.

On Thursday, North Korea launched two missiles from Hodo Peninsula near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday both flew around 600 kilometers, modified from an earlier estimate that they traveled 430 km and 690 km, respectively.

This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range ballistic missile launched from the Hodo Peninsula near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The firings came less than a month after Kim held a surprise meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom and agreed to resume their working-level nuclear talks.

After watching the launches, Kim expressed satisfaction over "the rapid anti-firepower capability of the tactical guided weapon system and the specific features of the low-altitude gliding and leaping flight orbit" of the missile, which would be hard to intercept, it said.

"It must have given uneasiness and agony to some targeted forces enough as it intended," the KCNA said.

The report did not directly criticize the U.S. or President Trump in an apparent effort to keep hope for talks alive but could have been meant to send a message to Washington as well.

Calling Seoul's introduction of new weapons and military exercises a "suicidal act," the North Korean leader urged South Korean President Moon Jae-in to "come back to the proper stand as in April and September last year" when they held summits.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks at a monitor showing a missile launch from a site near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan on July 25, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the following day. North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea, in what it says is a power demonstration of a "new tactical guided weapon." (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The KCNA did not elaborate, but the report was apparently referring to the joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S. slated for next month, and Seoul's plan to bring in stealth fighter jets from the U.S. for deployment through 2021.

North Korea has slammed South Korea over the plan to introduce the fighters, claiming it is intended to invade Pyongyang and constitutes a violation of the inter-Korean agreement to reduce tensions.

"The South Korean chief executive should not make a mistake of ignoring the warning from Pyongyang, however offending it may be," it said, without directly using Moon's name.

The denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang were expected to resume in mid-July but have not taken place yet.

North Korea's foreign ministry warned last week that the planned combined military drill between Seoul and Washington could affect the prospect of the resumption of the stalled nuclear talks, calling it a rehearsal for invasion.

This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range ballistic missile launched from the Hodo Peninsula near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Following the latest missiles launch, the presidential National Security Council tentatively concluded Thursday that the missiles were "a new kind of short-range ballistic missile" and expressed "strong concerns."

Seoul's relatively rapid response to the North's provocation marked a subtle shift from its previous cautious stance of refraining from directly describing the North's projectile launches as ballistic missile tests banned under U.N. sanctions.

Despite the provocation, Washington appears to be trying to keep hope for dialogue with the North alive.

Trump insisted that he gets along "very well" with the North Korean leader and that the North hasn't tested missiles other than "small ones" in an interview with Fox News held after the missiles test.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said earlier that he expects the working-level talks between the two countries to resume in "a couple of weeks," downplaying the North's move as a negotiating tactic.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, meanwhile, urged North Korea to stop provocations and return to talks, adding that all parties should abide by their obligation under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a missile launch from a site near the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan on July 25, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the following day. North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea, in what it says is a power demonstration of a "new tactical guided weapon." (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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