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North Korea: ‘Multiple Rocket Launchers’ On Kim’s Order Confirms State Media

Last month, North Korea said it tested a “tactical guided weapon.” Commercial satellite images have also detected increased activity at some North Korean nuclear and satellite launch facilities in recent weeks.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits Kumyagang Power Station No. 2 in North Korea in this May 4, 2019, photo supplied by the Korean Central News Agency. VOA

North Korea tested “multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons,” state media confirmed Saturday, the first comments on a launch that has further raised military tensions.

Kim Jong Un personally “gave an order of firing” of the projectiles into the sea off North Korea’s east coast, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

“The purpose of the drill was to estimate and inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance of large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons,” KCNA reported.

The test is North Korea’s latest attempt to gradually increase pressure on and signal its frustration with the United States and South Korea, since the breakdown of nuclear talks.

Pyongyang’s statement did not contain any explicit threats or even mentions of the United States or South Korea. Seoul on Friday condemned the launch as needlessly provocative and a violation of an inter-Korean military agreement.

North Korean military conducts a "strike drill" for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea, in this May 4, 2019, photo supplied by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korean military conducts a “strike drill” for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea, in this May 4, 2019, photo supplied by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). VOA

Missile or projectile?

There has been some confusion about the exact type of weapons North Korea launched. South Korea’s defense ministry initially characterized the launch as a “short-range missile” test. Later statements referred to the weapons as “projectiles.”

A picture published Saturday by the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper suggested that at least one of the projectiles launched was in fact a short-range missile.

A man watches a television screen showing a news report on North Korea firing several short-range projectiles from its east coast, on a street in Tokyo, May 4, 2019.
A man watches a television screen showing a news report on North Korea firing several short-range projectiles from its east coast, on a street in Tokyo, May 4, 2019. VOA

Under a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea is banned from conducting medium- or long-range ballistic missile launches. Seoul says the weapons traveled from 70 to 200 kilometers, which would be classified as a short-range test.

North Korea has not carried out a missile test since November 2017. The self-imposed moratorium has helped facilitate nuclear talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

In Kim’s view, the moratorium, which was never formalized, does not cover short-range tests. But by launching multiple short-range projectiles, Kim may be attempting to test the limits of how Washington interprets that moratorium.

Last month, North Korea said it tested a “tactical guided weapon.” Commercial satellite images have also detected increased activity at some North Korean nuclear and satellite launch facilities in recent weeks.

Trump: Deal still possible

So far, Trump has played down the provocations. But he has also not signaled a change in his negotiating stance. Reacting to the latest test, Trump said he still believes a nuclear deal with North Korea is possible.

Kim, who wants the removal of international sanctions hurting his economy, has said he will give the United States until the end of the year to become more flexible in the nuclear talks. Trump says he will not relax sanctions until Kim agrees to completely abandon his nuclear program.

Deadlocked talks

Trump and Kim have held two summits over the past year. At the first meeting, in Singapore, both men agreed to work “toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But U.S. officials later acknowledged the two sides never agreed on what that means.

At the second meeting in Vietnam, Trump rejected Kim’s offer to dismantle a part of North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for major sanctions relief. Since that meeting, the two sides have struggled to even hold talks, U.S. officials say.

FILE - U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrives at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2019.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrives at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Feb. 3, 2019. VOA

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, will visit South Korea and Seoul in coming days to help advance the talks.

Also Read: New Hope for Ethiopian Journalists to Commemorate World Press Freedom Day

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose liberal government has prioritized engagement with the North, says he is willing to hold a fourth summit with Kim anytime, anywhere.

Last week, Japan’s conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said he is willing to meet with Kim “unconditionally and talk with him frankly with an open mind.” (IANS)

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North Korea Slams Joe Biden as “Imbecile” and “Fool of Low IQ”

North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family

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Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a rally, May 1, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. VOA

North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The commentary in the state-run Korean Central News Agency criticized Biden for recently referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a thug and a tyrant.

“[Biden] reeled off rhetoric slandering the supreme leadership of the DPRK,” KCNA said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name. “What he uttered is just sophism of an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being, let alone a politician.”

The statement does not represent a formal endorsement of Trump; North Korean media often lash out at world leaders who criticize members of the ruling Kim family. “What is interesting this time is that the North Koreans may be attacking who they figure is Trump’s main domestic rival to curry favor with the president,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Polls indicate Biden leading his Democratic rivals, as well as Trump, in the 2020 race. The former vice president often criticizes Trump’s diplomatic outreach to authoritarian leaders. He recently slammed Kim as a thug.

“He’s the same guy (who had) his uncle’s brains blown out sitting across a desk,” Biden said earlier this month, referring to Kim’s 2013 execution of his uncle and mentor, Jang Song-thaek. The un-bylined KCNA editorial did not mention Trump. But it did appear to give a nod to Trump’s newly rolled out nickname for Biden: “Sleepy Joe.”

joe biden, IQ
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden arrives for a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, May 18, 2019. VOA

​”In April 2011 when the then President [Barack] Obama was in the middle of making a speech, [Biden] was fast asleep in the auditorium,” the commentary said, adding Biden became a “laughing-stock of the media.”

Trump, who is 72 years old, has attempted to portray Biden, who is 76, as not having enough energy to become president. KCNA also hit at Biden’s reputation for making verbal gaffes. “Yet, he is self-praising himself as being the most popular presidential candidate,” the editorial said. “This is enough to make a cat laugh.”

It isn’t the first time North Korean media have weighed in during a Trump presidential run. In 2016, an editorial in the DPRK Today, a China-based North Korean mouthpiece, called Trump “wise” and “far-sighted,” while slamming his opponent Hillary Clinton as “dull.”

Even though North Korea has recently taken a more aggressive stance toward the United States, state media have been careful not to criticize Trump. One North Korean official said Kim’s relationship with Trump remains “mysteriously wonderful,” even though nuclear talks have broken down.

Instead, North Korean state media have slammed other U.S. officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

joe biden, IQ
North Korean state media slammed Joe Biden as an “imbecile” and a “fool of low IQ” Wednesday, Pyongyang’s first substantial comments on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Wikimedia Commons

“Whether the person is Democrat or Republican, North Korean media will always react against someone who insults their leader,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. “And unless Trump calls Kim a dictator or says something harsh, North Korea will not directly criticize the president.”

Soo Kim, a North Korea watcher and former CIA analyst, agrees that Pyongyang doesn’t typically endorse U.S. presidential candidates. But Pyongyang clearly wants Trump to remain in office so that negotiations can continue, she said.

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Nuclear talks broke down following a Trump-Kim summit in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The two leaders were unable to agree on how to match the pace of sanctions relief with steps to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has said he will give the United States until the end of the year to change its approach, and has begun testing ballistic missiles for the first time in a year and a half. Trump has shrugged off Kim’s deadline and the missile launches, saying he is in no hurry for a deal. (VOA)