North Korea announced on Wednesday that its leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test-firing of a "super-large multiple rocket launcher". According to a news agency, the test-fire probably aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the US. A North Korean news agency said that Saturday's test-fire was successful and Kim is happy as he said that rocket launcher is 'indeed a great weapon'. The agency also reported there were two rounds of test firing and Kim gave the field guidance.
On Tuesday morning, South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) announced that North Korea has launched two unidentified short-range ballistic missiles from South Pyongan Province toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The JCS said that it has received warnings of the twin launches at 6:53 am and 7:12 am Korean time. The missiles flew about 380 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 97 kilometers. It was the seventh known weapons test by North Korea in about a month.
Experts said that North Korea is striving hard to develop powerful multiple rocket launcher. Most of the North Korean weapons test-fired which were tested in recent weeks are short-range ballistic missiles. This suggests that North Korea still doesn’t intend to lift its self-imposed propaganda on nuclear and long-range missile tests. This would certainly impact the negotiations with Washington.
The testing of weapons just came after two days South Korea said that it would bring to an end the intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid trade disputes between the US allies. The US also expressed its displeasure at South Korea's decision. This development could further complicate ties between Seoul and Tokyo. The South Korean Navy conducted a military drill around a group of islets controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan.
The Foreign Ministry of Japan released a statement claiming the islets belong to Japan and called the drills unacceptable. On the other hand, the South Korean Navy countered Japan's statement saying that the drills are the first of two regular exercises conducted every year near the islets. They are named Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese. It involves landing of aircraft on the islets and warships taking rounds nearby. A local news agency said that South Korea originally planned its first drills in June but delayed them considering the relationship with Japan.