WASHINGTON – United States acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Thursday that neither the Pentagon’s “posture” nor its operations with respect to the nuclear disarmament of North Korea have changed after Pyongyang reportedly tested a new type of tactical weapon.
Wednesday’s weapons test, which was supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was the first one carried since a February summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi ended without an agreement on the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
“I’m not going to go into the detail of the intelligence, but the way I’d characterize it is, it’s not like a ballistic missile, okay?” Shanahan said before welcoming the Albanian Minister of Defense, Olta Xhacka, to the Pentagon.
“There’s no change to our posture or our operations,” towards North Korea, Shanahan added.
“The test or the launch – depending on how you want to characterize it – was not a ballistic missile,” he insisted.
A ballistic missile, which can carry nuclear warheads, follows a predefined trajectory after launching before falling unguided and under gravity onto its target.
The North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced on Thursday that Kim Jong-un had overseen the testing of a new tactical guided weapon – a short-range battlefield weapon designed for use in combat scenarios.
As is usual for the North Korean regime, the location of the test was not specified, and the report merely said that it was a “new-type of guided tactical weapon” and that “the design indexes of the ... weapon whose advantages are appreciated for the peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire.”
News of Wednesday’s test raised concerns around the world due to the fact that Pyongyang announced last month that it was considering breaking off negotiations with Washington and resuming its ballistic missiles tests after 15 months.
On March 15, North Korea’s Vice-Foreign Minister, Choe Son-Hui, said that her country has “no intention to yield to the US demands (at the Hanoi summit) in any form” nor are they willing “to engage in negotiations of this kind” and noted that it was up to Kim to end the moratorium on weapons testing.
US President Donald Trump and Kim have met on two occasions, and although both leaders have stressed how amicable their relationship is, their last meeting in Hanoi ended abruptly without a deal.
The failure to reach an agreement at the summit revolved around the number of North Korean nuclear assets to be dismantled against the volume of sanctions that the US would lift in return.
Washington wanted North Korea to dismantle its missiles and chemical and biological weapons (in addition to nuclear weapons) programs before granting any concessions, while Pyongyang called for the lifting of most of the sanctions in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear facility, which the US considered insufficient.
On Thursday, Pyongyang also urged Washington to replace secretary of state Mike Pompeo with a “more careful and mature” negotiator, foreign ministry official Kwon Jong-gun said, according to KCNA.
He said talks could become complicated if Pompeo was involved in the discussions, adding that whenever he “pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong, without any results.”