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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea yesterday conducted a test of a large-caliber multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) to “finally examine” its “combat application” in the presence of leader Kim Jong Un, the country’s state media said on Friday, hailing the “military and technical superiority” of the new weapon.
In a dispatch which follows reports by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Thursday that the North had launched two projectiles from a large-caliber MLRS at 1659 local time, North Korean state media this morning confirmed its fourth test-firing of a “super-large multiple launch rocket system.”
DPRK reporting did not confirm the test’s date or location, though the ROK military on Thursday said the two missile were fired towards the country’s eastern coast in the vicinity of Ryonpo, Hamgyong Province.
The test was North Korea’s 13th this year, and came one day short of the two-year anniversary of the DPRK’s first launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
“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,” Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in an English-language dispatch.
The North Korean leader “expressed great satisfaction over the results of the test-fire,” it continued.
Pyongyang previously conducted tests of the new MLRS (also known under the designation KN-25) four times between August 24 and November 28, with the interval between the projectiles’ firing having shortened as testing had progressed.
Thursday saw the two projectiles fired within a 30-second interval, South Korea’s JCS said, with tests on September 10 and October 31 seeing 19 and 3-minute intervals, respectively.
The very first test-firing of the North’s “super-large multiple launch rocket system” on August 24 was conducted within a 17-minute interval, in contrast.
“It sounds like they’re expressing satisfaction on following up on Kim Jong Un’s previous order to test the ‘volley fire’ and they apparently did so, given the 30 second interval between shots,” Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told NK News.
“The use of ‘finally’ suggests they may not soon test the KN-25 again.”
Commanders of the large combined units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), state media reported Friday, had “sincerely extended their congratulations and gratitude” to the North Korean leader.
In a Korean-language report, KCNA said Kim had “developed and perfected a large number of armed equipment whose power is enormous this year alone, for the sake of military and technical reinforcement of the People’s Army.”
National defense scientists “are full of delight of developing and perfecting powerful weapons systems… under the direct guidance of respected and beloved Comrade Supreme Leader,” it added, and “were filled with burning resolution to continuously and unyieldingly the country’s defense capabilities by researching and developing more of our-style high-tech armed equipment… at the earliest possible time.”
The Korean-language dispatch said the research and development of “high-tech armed equipment,” it continued, was aimed at “realiz[ing] the Party’s strategic plan.”
“This weapon test is consistent with North Korean media signaling over the past few months, made all the clearer after the breakdown of the Stockholm talks in early October, that North Korea is on militaristic trajectory,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“With the year-end deadline quickly approaching, and North Korea adhering to its hard-line position that it will not discuss denuclearization with the U.S. unless the latter withdraws its ‘hostile policy,’ we will likely see more militaristic activities, not diplomacy, from Pyongyang.”
North Korean state media said Kim was greeted by first vice director of the party Munitions Industry Department Ri Pyong Chol and vice department director of the party Munitions Industry Department Kim Jong Sik at the test site.
Leading officials in the field of national defense-related scientific research, including President of the Academy of the Defense Science Jang Chang Ha and three-star colonel-general Jon Il Ho, were also present.
So, too, were top officials from the country’s military, including Army General Pak Jong Chon, chief of the General Staff of the KPA, North Korean state media reported.
Kim Dong-yub, Director of Research at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said Friday’s coverage suggests the North now appears ready to begin “mass production system and deployment” of the large-caliber MLRS.
Friday’s media report, he noted, was comparatively brief and understated, without a direct citation of the North Korean leader’s remarks or photos of the leader expressing joy over the successful launch.
Kim, however, said he did not believe that Pyongyang is seeking to tone down its rhetoric in order to facilitate nuclear negotiations with Washington.
“I would rather think it is an expression of its determined will in a grave situation,” Kim said, saying he could sense a “tension” in the North as it sets a new direction in its foreign policy and “abandons expectations” of successful talks with the U.S.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)