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North Korea test-fires brand-new ‘tactical guided’ weapon

An intercontinental ballistic missile is launched in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service)
April 17, 2019

North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a “tactical guided weapon,” according to North Korean state-run media.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Thursday local time that dictator Kim Jong Un oversaw the test and hailed it as an event of “very weighty significance.”

CNBC reported that the KCNA described the weapon as “tactical” and that it was likely a short-range weapon, rather than a long-range ballistic missile such as North Korea has test-fired in the past, but that it has a “peculiar mode of guiding flight” and “a powerful warhead.”

Kim reportedly called the test and new weapon system one of “very weighty significance in increasing the combat power” of North Korea.

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Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later confirmed that the weapon was not a missile.

“I’m not going to go into the detailed intelligence, but the way I’d characterize is it is not a ballistic missile,” Shanahan told reporters, according to The Hill.

“I’m not being cagey here, it’s just what’s important is it wasn’t ballistic,” he added.

CNN’s Ryan Browne tweeted, “No missile launch from North Korea has been detected by US Strategic Command and US Northern Command, two US defense officials tell CNN. Lack of detection indicates that if anything was launched it was likely small and very short range, possibly artillery.”

It’s the first major move by North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim met in Hanoi, Vietnam, this past February for a second summit to discuss denuclearization.

Talks collapsed when reports broke that Trump and Kim were not going to sign an agreement as previously discussed. President Trump later told reporters that the meeting ended because of disagreements over sanctions.

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“Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said after the meeting. “Sometimes you have to walk, and this was one of those times.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said at the time that Kim proposed a written commitment to end long-range missile testing and allow inspections of the country’s Yongbyon nuclear facility.

“This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we can take at the present stage in relation to the current level of confidence between the DPRK and the United States,” Ri said, adding that Kim’s position “will never be changed” and “it could be difficult to meet again.”

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters in late February that the “U.S. not accepting our proposal is missing an opportunity that comes once in a thousand years,” according to Bloomberg.

“I have a feeling that Chairman Kim may have lost the will” for further negotiations, Choe said.

Kim, however, vowed to hold a third meeting with Trump, calling talks over the two-day summit “productive” and stating his appreciation for “active efforts toward results” made by Trump.

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This article has been updated to include Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s confirmation that the weapon was not a missile.