N.Korea State Media: Kim Inspects Testing of 'Tactical' Weapon

Hugh Fox
November 16, 2018

It marked the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea in almost a year since it launched a delicate diplomacy with Washington over its nuclear and missile program.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency identified the American as Bruce Byron Lowrance and said that he had told his captors that he was controlled by the CIA.

North Korea in the past has held arrested American citizens for an extended period before high-profile US figures travelled to Pyongyang to secure their freedom.

On the same day that South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested to United States Vice-President Mike Pence that the USA accelerate its ties with North Korea, a delegation of ethnic Korean businesspeople headed into the reclusive and heavily sanctioned state on a four-day trip.

The deportation announced Friday stands in sharp contrast to North Korea's treatment of American citizens detained by authorities there in the past.

Their release differed dramatically from American student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in North Korea for alleged spying after taking a propaganda poster from a hotel room.

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North Korea denied torturing him and said they were surprised by Mr Warmbier's death - and went on to claim they provided medical care "with all sincerity".

In May, North Korea released three American detainees in a goodwill gesture weeks ahead of leader Kim Jong Un's June 12 summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore.

"North Korea is trying to show its soldiers that they are becoming high-tech and keeping a certain level of military capability, while trying to eliminate dissatisfaction and worries inside its military", he added.

Earlier Friday, KCNA said Kim observed the successful test of an unspecified "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon", though it didn't describe what the weapon was.

North Korea has continued to showcase its conventional military capabilities, including at a large military parade in Pyongyang, its capital, on 9 September.

Global weapons experts said the officials included a leader of the artillery corps of the Korean People's Army.

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Diplomacy has stalled since the Singapore summit, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the USA first approve a peace declaration formally ending the Korean War and lift sanctions.

Vice President Pence said Thursday that Trump plans to meet Kim again next year and will push for a concrete plan outlining Pyongyang's moves to end its arms programs.

Even if the test was a message for Washington and Seoul, Friday's report from the North was noticeably less belligerent than past announcements of weapons tests, and did not focus on North Korean claims of US and South Korean hostility.

North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or ballistic missile since previous year. "We made great progress but there's more work to be done", he said.

Mr Pence stressed that United Nations sanctions had to remain enforced.

Kim said the weapons system tested was one in which his father, Kim Jong Il, had taken a special interest during his lifetime, personally leading its development.

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The news came nearly a year after Pyongyang's last test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and recalled the repeated announcements of 2017, which included by far its most powerful nuclear blast to date and rockets that brought the whole of the United States mainland into range.

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