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(LEAD) N. Korea says it tested new multiple rocket launcher system again

North Korea 07:08 August 03, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info from 6th para, byline)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Saturday that it has tested its new rocket system again in launches conducted the previous day under leader Kim Jong-un's supervision.

The firing of "newly-developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system early in the Friday morning" was aimed to examine its capabilities, such as flight performance, track control ability and rate of hits, the Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim "expressed great satisfaction over the result of the test-fire," it said.

The report came a day after North Korea fired two projectiles from Yonghung, South Hamgyong Province, into the East Sea, which Seoul said appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles. It was the third such launch in just over a week.

The projectiles flew about 220 kilometers at an approximate altitude of 25 km, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

On Friday, North Korea also fired two projectiles and said they were from a new multiple rocket launcher system, contradicting Seoul and Washington's assessment that they were short-range ballistic missiles.

The series of launches came ahead of a possible resumption of the denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang following U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim's surprise meeting at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30.

Though the working-level talks, which had been expected to resume in mid-July, have not taken place yet, experts say Pyongyang is apparently trying to strengthen its negotiating leverage ahead of the talks' resumption.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the North's foreign ministry issued a statement slamming Britain, France and Germany for condemning its recent missile launches as a violation of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

North Korea "has never recognized UNSC's 'resolutions' against" the country "illegally fabricated by the U.N. according to its taste, nor will it recognize them in the future, too," it said.

Describing its latest launches as "conventional weaponry development," the spokesperson said the North's decision to suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests is "goodwill and consideration for dialogue partner," not "part of acts to recognize" to U.N. resolutions.

The U.S., meanwhile, has remained upbeat about the prospects for talks with the North, with Trump saying Friday the firings did not violate his agreement with Kim.

"Kim Jong Un and North Korea tested 3 short range missiles over the last number of days," the president wrote on Twitter. "These missiles tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short range missiles when we shook hands."

A senior U.S. State Department official also said Friday that the U.S. and North Korea are in regular contact for resumption of their talks, adding that both expect the negotiations to start again soon.

North Korea test-fires a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system on July 31, 2019, in this photo captured from the North's Korean Central TV on Aug. 1. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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