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North Korea conducts new test at rocket site, aims to ‘overpower U.S. nuclear threats’


SEOUL — North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at “restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.

The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.

In a later statement carried by KCNA, Chief of the General Staff Pak Jong Chon said the tests were designed to bolster North Korea’s defenses by developing new weapons.

“The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests of defense science research will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon of the DPRK for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” he said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It was the second test at the Sohae facility in the space of a week.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a super-large multiple launch rocket system test in this undated picture released by North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 28, 2019.

KCNA via REUTERS

KCNA on Sunday said that North Korea had carried out a “very important” test on Dec. 7 at the satellite launch site, a rocket-testing facility that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

That KCNA report called the Dec. 7 event a “successful test of great significance.” South Korea’s defense minister Jeong Keong-doo said it was an engine test.

The reported tests come ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has put forth for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearisation by Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump has invested considerable time trying to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that has grown to threaten the United States, but progress has been scant in spite of his three meetings with Kim Jong Un.

“ARMY READY”

North Korea would be ready to respond to all political and military provocations by hostile forces while being “familiar with both dialog and confrontation,” Pak said.

“Genuine peace can be safeguarded and our development and future be guaranteed only when the balance of power is completely ensured,” he said.

Pak warned that the United States and others should avoid provoking North Korea if they wanted a peaceful end-of-year period.

“Our army is fully ready to thoroughly carry out any decision of the Supreme Leader with action,” he said.

Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.

The top U.S envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, is due in Seoul on Sunday for meetings with South Korean officials.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday said the United States would be “tested soon” on bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table.

“They (North Korea) are still doing training, they do short range ballistic missile tests that we are also concerned about.

“We watch closely as do South Korea and Japan … the State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement,” Esper said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement

REMINDER

Analysts said such tests could help North Korea build more reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

“The point seems to be to remind the United States that North Korea still has space to qualitatively advance its program,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Federation of American Scientists.

“We had a good hint that whatever they were doing at Sohae was military in nature when the Academy of Defence Science took charge of the announcement, as opposed to NADA, their space agency,” Panda added.

Tension has been rising in recent weeks as Pyongyang has conducted weapons tests and waged a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump, stoking fears that tensions between the two countries could return.

“Considering the fact that North Korea said the 7-minute test conducted last night was to bolster the strategic nuclear deterrence, the test would likely be related to ICBMs, which North Korea considers a strategic weapon to defend itself from adversaries including the United States,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, told Reuters.

“North Korea is close to issuing an ultimatum towards the United States to come to the negotiating table with new calculations or to return to developing nuclear weapons,” Koh added.





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North Korea claims to have conducted rocket test



A spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of National Defense Science said the test was carried out Saturday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, a site near the Chinese border that has been used to launch satellites into space in the past. The United Nations bans North Korea from launching satellites, viewing it as a cover for testing ballistic missile technology.

President Trump earlier said he had persuaded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to close the site when the pair met in Singapore in June 2018. When evidence emerged that North Korea was rebuilding the site, Trump said in March that he would be “very, very disappointed” with Kim if that proved to be the case but that he didn’t believe it would be.

On Sunday, he again expressed confidence that Kim would not betray their agreement, but he also made an implicit threat to the North Korean leader.

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November. North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised. NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!”

Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest, tweeted that North Korea won’t like Trump’s comment about Kim having “everything to lose.”

“That won’t go over well, not one bit,” Kazianis tweeted.

Saturday’s test underlines just how far bilateral relations have deteriorated since a failed summit in Hanoi at the end of February and could presage a new round of weapons tests and hostile exchanges next year.

In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Sunday, a North Korean spokesman said the test result “will have an important impact on changing the strategic position of the DPRK,” referring to his country by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim Song, Pyongyang’s envoy to the United Nations, dismissed the Trump administration’s calls for dialogue Saturday as a “timesaving trick” aimed solely at “its domestic political agenda.”

“We do not need to have lengthy talks with the U.S. now, and denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table,” he said.

Since assuming the presidency, Trump has met with the North Korean leader three times to persuade him to give up nuclear weapons. Trump has repeatedly touted his “good relationship” with Kim as a win from his engagement efforts.

However, North Korea has been ramping up provocations ahead of the year-end deadline it has set for Washington to make a significant concession in nuclear negotiations. Pyongyang has called on the United States to drop its push for unilateral denuclearization of North Korea and relieve punishing sanctions on the country.

The announcement of a new test at the Sohae site is “a first solid step in ending a moratorium on testing” in a lead-up to the end-of-year deadline, said Nathan Hunt, an independent defense analyst who focuses on North Korea’s weapons systems.

Kim announced an end to nuclear warhead and long-range missile tests even before meeting Trump, something the U.S. president has held up as an important diplomatic achievement.

“North Korea is not going to any longer let actions be dictated so as to give good PR to the West,” Hunt said.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, had predicted last week that a test was imminent at Sohae, based on analysis of satellite imagery.

“The North Korean statement strongly implies that North Korea has tested a new or substantially improved rocket engine,” he said Sunday. “This suggests the ‘Christmas gift’ that North Korea has promised will be a new missile. Possibilities range from an improved Hwasong-15 to a solid-propellant ICBM.”

Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said Sunday that a satellite test would be the perfect next step because it would not technically breach the moratorium, even if it would be widely seen as an ICBM test in disguise.

“The North Koreans will have no choice, but do something dramatic early next year — after all, they promised that they will not remain idle if the Americans do not give them what they expect,” he wrote in an email.

A satellite test “will not probably produce enough political and media noise they now badly need, so it will be followed by more ‘military demonstrations,’ ” he added.





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Canadiens call up defenceman Otto Leskinen from Laval Rocket






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North Korea may deploy ‘super-large’ rocket launcher soon


North Korea says the latest test-firing of its “super-large” multiple rocket launcher was a final review of its combat application

North Korea said Friday the latest test-firing of its “super-large” multiple rocket launcher was a final review of the weapon’s combat application, a suggestion that the country is preparing to deploy the new weapons system soon.

South Korea’s military earlier said North Korea fired two projectiles, likely from the same “super-large” rocket launcher, on Thursday. It expressed “strong regret” over the launches and urged North Korea to stop escalating tensions.

On Friday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency confirmed the launches were made with the presence of leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials.

“The volley test-fire aimed to finally examine the combat application of the super-large multiple launch rocket system proved the military and technical superiority of the weapon system and its firm reliability,” KCNA said.

It said Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over the results of the test-firing.

Analyst Kim Dong-yub at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies said North Korea appears to be entering the stage of mass-producing and deploying the rocket launcher. He wrote on Facebook that the weapons system may already have been deployed.

Thursday’s firing was the fourth test-launch of the rocket launcher since August.

Some experts say the flight distance and trajectory of projectiles fired from the launcher show they are virtually missiles or missile-classed weapons. The projectiles fired Thursday flew about 380 kilometers (235 miles) at a maximum altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles), according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday called the projectiles ballistic missiles.

North Korea has fired other new weapons in recent months in what some experts say is an attempt to wrest concessions from the United States in stalled nuclear diplomacy while upgrading its military capabilities.

A U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at persuading North Korea to scrap its nuclear program in return for political and economic benefits remains largely stalemated since the February collapse of a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Vietnam.

Most of the North Korean weapons tested since the Vietnam summit were short-range. Attention is now on whether North Korea resumes nuclear and long-range missile tests if Trump fails to meet a year-end deadline set by Kim for Washington to offer new proposals to salvage the negotiations.

Trump considers North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests a major foreign policy win.



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