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Test-fire of 'guided weapon'

North Korea said Thursday that it had test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon," its first such test in nearly half a year, and a possible sign of its displeasure with deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.

The test, which didn't appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle negotiations, allows Pyongyang to show its people it is pushing ahead with weapons development while also reassuring domestic military officials worried that diplomacy with Washington signals weakness.

The North's leader, Kim Jong Un, observed the unspecified weapon being fired Wednesday by the Academy of Defence Science, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim was reported to have said "the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army."

The Associated Press could not independently verify North Korea's claim, and it wasn't immediately clear what had been tested. A ballistic missile test would jeopardize the diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for disarmament. A South Korean analyst said that details in the North's media report indicate it could have been a new type of cruise missile. Another possible clue: one of the lower level officials mentioned in the North's report on the test — Pak Jong Chon — is known as an artillery official.

The test comes during an apparent deadlock in nuclear disarmament talks after the failed summit in Hanoi between Kim and President Donald Trump earlier this year. Some in Seoul worry that the North will turn back to actions seen as provocative by outsiders as a way to force Washington to drop its hardline negotiating stance and grant the North's demand for a removal of crushing international sanctions. A string of increasingly powerful weapons tests in 2017 and Trump's response of "fire and fury" had many fearing war before the North shifted to diplomacy.

Trump said last month that he "would be very disappointed if I saw testing."

As the diplomacy stalls, there have been fresh reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research centre and long-range rocket site where Pyongyang is believed to build missiles targeting the U.S. mainland. North Korean media said Wednesday that Kim guided a flight drill of combat pilots from an air force and anti-aircraft unit tasked with defending the capital Pyongyang from an attack.

During a speech at his rubber-stamp parliament last week, Kim set the year's end as a deadline for Washington to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage diplomacy.



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