North Korean state media announced today that the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, recently oversaw tests of a "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon." The new report is extremely light on details, but it's a reminder that very little has actually changed in the US-North Korea relationship since US president Donald Trump took power. Both countries have nuclear weapons and both are on a hair trigger as they develop new capabilities.
The announcement in DPRK Today proclaims that "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was so excited" about the "great work" of that country's military scientists. It's not yet clear what kind of weapon has been developed, and a photo released by the North Koreans (seen above) only shows Kim with military advisers. The test was billed as a "great success."
When President Trump and Kim Jong Un met in Singapore this past June, there was hope that rising tensions between the US and North Korea would cool off. And for the sake of appearances, things did look better for a while, however modestly.
But American experts on the region warn that virtually nothing has changed since Kim and Trump talked in person. North Korea still possesses nuclear weapons and is actively developing new "ultramodern" weapons, if this latest report directly from North Korea is accurate. However, the regime often touts its military prowess amid ongoing negotiations.
North Korea hasn't conducted a rocket test nor a nuclear bomb since November 28, 2017, but the country has largely rejected calls for international inspectors to access North Korean nuclear facilities. South Korean intelligence agencies claim that the country might be preparing for inspections in the near future, based on movement at various facilities, but North Korea has not yet announced anything.
North Korea's pledges for concessions have largely been tit-for-tat, explaining that they're willing to get rid of nuclear weapons as long as other countries do the same. It's widely believed that North Korea is still enriching uranium.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press conference yesterday that a new summit between Trump and Kim could happen as soon as early 2019.But Nauert, who's rumoured to be a contender for the job of United Nations ambassador, largely made yesterday's press conference about "fake news" when reporters asked what kind of example the US was sending by banning CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House.
For its part, the US military is still testing intercontinental ballistic missiles over the Pacific Ocean, yet the Air Force claims that it's "not related to world events." So while American military leaders are naturally sceptical of any promises from the Kim regime, it's easy to see why Kim isn't so eager to give up his weapons and is, in all likelihood, developing new ones.
America is shooting unarmed Minuteman III missiles, which are capable of carrying up to three thermonuclear devices each, in the general direction of North Korea.