North Korea says it test-fired new tactical guided weapon

Ms Kim is close to her brother and often seen at his side during key events

Ms Kim is close to her brother and often seen at his side during key events Credit Reuters

North Korea's state news agency said Kwon Jong Gun, in charge of USA affairs at the foreign ministry, had warned that no one could predict what would happen if Washington did not abandon the "root cause" that compelled Pyongyang to develop nuclear weapons.

North Korea's chairman Kim Jong-un has expressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin his readiness to cooperate in order to reach peace on the Korean Peninsula and to develop relations between the two states.

In Washington, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan confirmed that North Korea conducted a test launch but said it did not involve a ballistic weapon and did not trigger any change in USA military operations.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said it was aware of the report about Pompeo and added: "The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation".

Describing Pompeo as "reckless" and immature, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it wanted him replaced by another interlocutor, a demand that significantly ups the ante in a diplomatic standoff.

US and Japanese officials said they had agreed that cyberattacks on either country would be considered an attack covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U.

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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 anxious that diplomacy with Washington signals weakness.

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said North Korea's descriptions of the test show the weapon is possibly a newly developed cruise missile.

A statement quoting senior North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun, reported by the Korean Central News Agency, suggested Pompeo was responsible for the collapse of the summit talks in Hanoi.

KCNA said that Kwon, who heads US affairs, said the Vietnam meeting showed that talks could go wrong when Pompeo takes part.

"Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the USA, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo, but".

After the animosity of 2017, last year saw a stunning turn to diplomacy, culminating in the first-ever summit between the U.S. and North Korea in Singapore, and then the Hanoi talks this year.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono shake hands after speaking to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019.

He said that while Kwon would have been acting on the highest authority, he was only a mid-level official, so his statements should be "taken with a pinch of salt". It is not the first time North Korea has singled out Pompeo for special criticism. Kwon said another meeting would not be successful with Pompeo there. He gave a year-end deadline for a change in attitude.

Last week, in a speech before his rubber-stamp parliament, Kim said he is open to a third summit with Trump, but only if the United States changes its stance on sanctions enforcement and pressure by the end of the year. And last July, a few hours after Pompeo flew out of Pyongyang after two days of talks, the Foreign Ministry said USA demands were "gangster-like".

"Kim is trying to make a statement to the Trump administration that his military potential is growing by the day", said Harry Kazianis, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.

There is also a chance that the talks will not take place at all: Mr Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute. He did not elaborate. "However, after sitting the other way around, he spouted reckless remarks hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership at Congress hearings last week to unveil his mean character by himself, thus stunning reasonable people".

It said Kim directed a "tactical guided weapons firing test". The US believes the component testing was most likely motivated by Kim deciding to send a message to the US that he still had a test capability without engaging in a major provocation, the official said.

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