- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered an impromptu strike exercise, during which his military launched a salvo of rockets and missiles.
- Included in the unexpected drill was a new “tactical guided weapon” – a short-range ballistic missile that some experts are comparing to Russia’s Iskander missile.
- This marks the first ballistic missile launch since North Korea tested the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.
- The exercise is being perceived as a warning to the Trump administration that North Korea’s patience is running out.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally ordered the launch of various rockets and missiles in an impromptu strike exercise Saturday morning, according to state media reports.
The “strike drill,” which North Korean troops conducted without prior notice, involved a 240 mm Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS), a 300 mm MLRS, and an unidentified short-range ballistic missile, expert observers revealed.
“Based on what was analysed until now, what we understand is that (North Korea) launched many 240mm, 300mm multiple rocket launchers including new model of tactical guided weapons and assess that the range is about 70-240km,” the South Korean military said in a statement, using the same terminology as the North for the new ballistic missile fired during the drill.
The exercise was reportedly conducted to “increase the combat ability” of the North Korean forces. Kim instructed service members to maintain a high alert posture.
The launch and subsequent release of photos of what appear to be short-range ballistic missiles, what some are calling North Korea’s version of the Russian Iskander missile, is the first clear indication that “Rocket Man” is back in the missile testing business.
It’s been over a year since Kim launched a ballistic missile, the last of which was the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile tested in late November 2017.
This show of force is perceived as a signal to the Trump administration, a message that Pyongyang’s patience is running out.
“This is largely a warning to Trump that he could lose the talks unless Washington takes partial denuclearization steps offered by Kim,” Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told Reuters. “A resumption of long-range test could be next unless Kim gets what he wants soon.”
The exercise comes after several rounds of failed negotiations, including two leadership summits attended by Kim and President Donald Trump.
Trump’s response was surprisingly measured. “Anything in this very interesting world is possible,” he tweetedSaturday, adding that Kim “knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me.” The president then insisted that a “deal will happen.”