North Korea Test Was of Ground-Combat Weapon, South Korea Says

(Bloomberg) -- A weapon tested by North Korea is thought to have been a guided weapon for ground combat and not a ballistic missile, South Korea’s military said, indicating it was a conventional weapon and not one subject to international sanctions.

South Korea and the U.S. ran a joint assessment of the test, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday without offering further details about the weapon. The Pentagon said the test didn’t involve a ballistic missile and posed no threat to the U.S. or its allies in the Pacific.

A U.S. official directly familiar with the assessment told CNN that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, rather than a fully operational new weapon. The official added that data the U.S. has been able to review indicated the components were inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.

North Korean state media announced the test of what it called a “new-type tactical guided weapon” on Thursday, hours before a separate state media report in which a foreign ministry official demanded U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from direct nuclear negotiations for what the official called his “reckless remarks.”

Those moves are seen as a way for North Korea to gain leverage after a February summit in Hanoi between its leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump broke down without a deal. North Korea wants an easing of sanctions choking its moribund economy in return for disarmament steps but Trump said Pyongyang was offering far too little to warrant ending the economic squeeze.

A fresh round of UN Security Council sanctions was imposed as punishment after North Korea tested nuclear devices and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2016 and 2017. Kim pledged to halt the testing after that, which helped pave the way for diplomacy and the summits with Trump.

In an event in November with similar overtones, Kim oversaw the test of what North Korea’s official media said was an “advanced tactical” weapon. While the move sent ripples through diplomatic circles at the time, it didn’t scuttle the negotiations and weeks later Trump announced plans for a second summit.

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