This story has been updated with additional comment from Acting Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Charles Summers Jr.
U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday confirmed North Korea conducted a weapon test the previous day, though added it was not a ballistic missile.
The confirmation comes following an announcement from North Korean media on Wednesday which claimed the successful trial of a “tactical guided weapon.”
“There was a test … Also, there’s no change to our posture or to our operations,” Shanahan told assembled reporters at the Pentagon, though declined to give further information on the DPRK test.
According to social media coverage from Defense One editor Kevin Baron, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Charles Summers Jr later added the test did not constitute a threat to “allies in the Pacific, nor to the United States.”
The DPRK’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the weapon trial, though did not provide accompanying photographs.
“Looking round the new-type tactical guided weapon, Kim Jong Un was told by officials concerned of the Academy of Defence Science about the formation of the weapon system and its operation mode,” the KCNA article reads.
“The design indexes of the tactical guided weapon whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of firing at different targets.”
The trial is the first since February’s failed summit between North Korea and the U.S. in Hanoi, and comes amid growing speculation that the DPRK leader may meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next week and a prolonged deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington over the DPRK’s denuclearization and sanctions relief.
North Korea also made a similar announcement about a tactical weapon test in November, though again provided no imagery or additional information concerning the new weapon system, leading some experts to believe that North Korea is signaling displeasure with the pace of the diplomatic process.
“It was almost inevitable that the North Koreans would send some signal,” Stephan Haggard, director of the Korea-Pacific Program at IR/PS, told NK News.
“But it was also highly likely that it would be calibrated to fall below the line of posing serious concerns or disrupting the prospects for continued talks. The extent of coverage of this—Fox News alerts and all—is disproportionate to its significance.”
On social media, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation Bruce Klingner cautioned against reading too much into the test announcement.
“Not all North Korean military activity is a signal to the U.S. or, if the signal is tactical and ambiguous, it isn’t a very good signal. As Sigmund Freud might have said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Klingner said on Twitter.
“Pundits and policy makers should refrain from automatically presuming this is an indicator of Pyongyang deliberately ratcheting up tensions or closing the door on negotiations.”
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Featured Image: 190411-D-PB383-031 by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 2019-04-11 14:48:55