North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher," the country's state-run KCNA news agency reports.
Why it matters: This appears to be yet another demonstration of North Korea expanding its weapons arsenal apparently with the intention of increasing leverage ahead of the possible resumption of negotiations with the U.S. to denuclearize, as AP points out.
The big picture: The South Korean military said it detected the launch of 2 short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea early Saturday local time into the waters between South Korea and Japan, Reuters notes. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya later confirmed the missiles landed outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, posing no immediate threat.
Context: Saturday's launch is the latest in a string of 7 weapons tests carried out since late July. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump had agreed to restart denuclearization negotiations at a June 30 meeting.
- The North was expected to cease its weapons tests after a 10-day U.S.-South Korean drill ended earlier this week, the AP reports.
- Earlier this week, South Korea abandoned an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan over a long-running dispute between the 2 countries over trade restrictions. Per the New York Times: "Officials in Washington have expressed concern about the growing rupture between Japan and South Korea, worried that the end of the intelligence-sharing deal would send the wrong signal to China and North Korea, which have long sought to undermine American influence in the region." The deal will not expire until November.
Catch up quick:
- North Korea reportedly fired 2 short-range missiles from its east coast on July 24, according to the New York Times.
- North Korea launched at least 1 short-range projectile into the Sea of Japan Aug. 1, according to a U.S. official's statement to ABC.
- Two days before, North Korea fired 2 short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- North Korea reportedly test-fired “a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance the country’s ability to strike targets in South Korea“ on Aug. 2 (EST), the AP reports.
- South Korea's military said North Korea launched 2 projectiles from its eastern coast Aug. 9, reports Reuters. A North Korean launch, also including short-range ballistic missiles, took place Aug. 15.
What they're saying: After U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun visited Seoul, South Korea last week to discuss denuclearization, North Korea’s top diplomat described U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a "diehard toxin," adding, "We are ready for both dialogue and standoff," per Reuters.
- Trump has downplayed the missile tests since meeting with Kim at the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
- Trump told reporters Aug. 23 that the latest missile launch poses no new challenges for his relationship with Kim or denuclearization talks.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include North Korea's latest launches.