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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea tests new "super-large" multiple rocket launcher: KCNA

A missile is fired during the test of a multiple rocket launcher in this undated photo released on August 25, 2019 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korea successfully tested a newly developed "super-large multiple rocket launcher" under the guidance of leader Kim Jong Un, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday.

The Japanese and South Korean governments said Saturday that North Korea had earlier that day fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, in Pyongyang's seventh round of such launches since July 25.    

The missile firings came a day after South Korea formally informed Japan of its decision to scrap a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact, fanning concern that trilateral security cooperation with the United States would weaken in future.    

Kim emphasized the need to "continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces," the news agency reported.    

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, ran photos of the rocket launcher in its Sunday edition.    

Recently, North Korea has repeatedly launched new weapons, including what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles, off its east coast, in protest against the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise that took place from Aug. 5 through last Tuesday.    

Pyongyang has denounced such drills as rehearsals for an invasion. Saturday's missile launch was the first since the joint military exercise ended.    

The missiles, fired from Sondok in North Korea's South Hamgyong Province on Saturday morning, flew 350 to 400 kilometers, according to Tokyo and Seoul. U.N. Security Council resolutions have banned North Korea from using ballistic technology.    

But U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launches, saying Washington and Pyongyang have a really good relationship and Kim has been "pretty straight with me."    

Trump said earlier this month that Kim wrote in what the U.S. president called a "beautiful" letter that North Korea's missile testing "would stop when the (U.S.-South Korea) exercises end."

Last Wednesday, however, Pyongyang voiced eagerness to continue developing and testing new weapons while accusing the United States of seeking confrontation through military drills with the South.    

On Thursday, North Korea is slated to convene the second session of its top legislative body this year. All eyes are on whether Kim will make a speech at the legislature detailing how he intends to proceed with denuclearization negotiations with the United States.    

At their June 30 meeting at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom, Trump and Kim agreed that Washington and Pyongyang would resume stalled talks within weeks, but they have yet to be held.

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