North Korea is saying that it had test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon," its first such test in nearly half a year. The country is also demanding the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from talks over its nuclear programme.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the testing of a new type of tactical guided weapon on Wednesday, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday.
It is North Korea's first public weapons test since the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement in February.
KCNA did not describe exactly what the weapon is, including whether it was a missile or another type of weapon, but "tactical" implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
Nevertheless, the weapon has a "peculiar mode of guiding flight" and "a powerful warhead," KCNA said.
Kim said "the completion of the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power" of the North Korean army, according to KCNA.
Last year, Kim had also overseen a test of an unidentified "tactical weapon" in November, which could protect North Korea like a "steel wall," according to state media, which experts said was part of Kim's initiative to shift the mainstay of the conventional military power from a nearly 1.3 million-strong army to high-tech weapons.
In April 2018, Kim had said North Korea would stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, because Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities had been "verified."
There was no immediate response to requests for comment from the White House, Pentagon or US State Department.
The news of Kim's visit to the tactical weapon testing site comes after the North Korean leader visited the North Korean Air and Anti-aircraft Force on Tuesday, according to KCNA, inspecting a flight drill and expressing "great satisfaction" at their combat readiness.
Meanwhile, satellite images from last week show movement at North Korea's main nuclear site of Yongbyon that could be associated with the reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the United States said on Tuesday.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in a Bloomberg News interview on Wednesday that the United States needs to see "a real indication from North Korea that they've made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons," before a third summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim.
Pyongyang wants Pompeo removed from nuclear talks
North Korea has demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from talks over its banned nuclear programme.
Describing Pompeo as "reckless" and immature, the foreign ministry said it wanted him replaced by another interlocutor, a demand that significantly ups the ante in a sensitive diplomatic standoff.
"I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled," Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the ministry's Department of American Affairs said, according to the official KCNA news agency.
"Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but ... [another] person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us."
The US State Department, however, said that it remained ready to negotiate with North Korea.
"The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation," a State Department spokesman said.
Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between Kim and Trump earlier this year.
It is not the first time North Korea has singled out Pompeo for special criticism.
When the secretary of state met with North Korean officials in Pyongyang in July last year, he was condemned for his "gangster-like" insistence that the North move towards unilateral disarmament.
Kwon, whom KCNA said was responding to a question from one of its journalists, said leader Kim had made clear that the US attitude has to change.