Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - North Korean rocket drills stoke concern of escalation




North Korean rocket drills stoke concern of escalation

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
NORTH Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a rocket and tactical guided weapons test. AFP

North Korean rocket drills stoke concern of escalation

NORTH Korea’s state media said on Sunday that leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a rocket and tactical guided weapons test, with the drill on Saturday raising concerns Pyongyang was escalating provocations with nuclear negotiations deadlocked.

The North last carried out a missile test in November 2017, before a rapid diplomatic rapprochement saw tensions ease on the peninsula and a series of summits.

A return to missile launches would be likely to infuriate US President Donald Trump, but the North’s official KCNA news agency shied away from the term in its report, saying Kim had ordered a “strike drill” involving “long-range multiple rocket launchers” – which are not targeted by UN sanctions resolutions – and unspecified “tactical guided weapons”.

Seoul’s defence ministry said on Sunday that an analysis of the launch indicated Pyongyang had tested “240mm and 300mm multiple rocket launchers and a new type of tactical guided weapons with a range of around 70 to 240km” (45 to 150 miles).

The US and North Korea have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a Trump-Kim summit in February, when the two sides clashed over sanctions and the extent of Pyongyang’s concessions on its atomic arsenal.

But despite the latest sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, Trump insisted that a breakthrough was possible.

“Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” Trump tweeted.

“He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”

Trump did not elaborate on Kim’s promise.

During Saturday’s drill Kim urged his troops to remember “the iron truth that genuine peace and security are ensured and guaranteed only by powerful strength”, KCNA said.

The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Sunday carried 16 photos of the weapons test on its front page, including a picture of a grim-looking Kim clutching his binoculars in an observation post as well as several images of projectiles shooting skywards.

Trump proclaimed that the North Korean nuclear threat was over after the two sides’ historic first summit in Singapore in June, when Kim pledged to work towards “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

The two have since disagreed over what that means, but Trump has insisted the leaders remain close even after their follow-up meeting in Vietnam broke up without a deal or even a joint statement, and that Kim would maintain his moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.

But with negotiations lagging, the North appears to be testing the US while staying below that threshold.

The Saturday drill followed last month’s test-firing of very short-range tactical weapons, and came days after a senior North Korean diplomat chastised US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for making “foolish and dangerous” comments during nuclear talks.

Analysts said Pyongyang appears intent on raising pressure on Washington.

“Kim wants to ensure the world knows it is upset with the US hardline stance on denuclearisation and will not bow to external pressure,” said Scott Seaman of the Eurasia Group.

But Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists stressed that the projectile launch “does not violate Kim Jong Un’s self-imposed missile-testing moratorium”, which “only applied to intercontinental-range ballistic missiles”.

Even so, a statement from Seoul’s presidential Blue House said it was “greatly concerned”, calling it a violation of a military agreement signed by both Koreas last year.

On Friday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Pyongyang should show “visible, concrete and substantial” denuclearisation action if it wants sanctions relief – the issue at the centre of the Hanoi debacle.

Earlier this week, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned Washington of an “unwanted outcome” if it did not adjust its stance on economic sanctions.

Since the Hanoi summit’s collapse, South Korean president Moon Jae-in – who brokered the first meeting between the countries’ leaders – has tried to salvage diplomacy, but Pyongyang has remained largely unresponsive.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,