Kim Jong Un Oversees Missile Firing Drills, Tells Troops to Be Alert

By Colin Fredericson

North Korean state media on Sunday, May 5, showed leader Kim Jong Un observing live-fire drills of long-range multiple rocket launchers and what appeared to be a new short-range ballistic missile, a day after South Korea expressed concern that the launches were a violation of an inter-Korean agreement to cease all hostile acts.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over Saturday’s drills and stressed that his front-line troops should keep a “high alert posture” and enhance combat ability to “defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance of the country.”

North Korean's Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes tests of different weapons systems, in North Korea, on May 4, 2019. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Since the missiles were not intercontinental ballistic missiles, they don’t violate the agreement North Korea’s leader made with Trump, CNN reported.

The tests were not conducted alongside any warning towards any nation, so the purpose of the tests remain vague, perhaps purposefully.

A test of weapon systems, in North Korea
A test of weapon systems, in North Korea, on May 4, 2019. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” President Trump tweeted.

The missile tests were conducted on the morning of May 4, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, told CNN.

“At no point was there ever any international boundary crossed—that is, they landed in the water east of North Korea and didn’t present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with ABC This Week.

“We know that they were relatively short range. We know they weren’t intercontinental ballistic missiles either, and beyond that I’ll leave the Department of Defense to characterize this when the further information arrives.

Pompeo also said he was hopeful that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was still going to work with the United States to denuclearize. He did mention that Kim recently met with Russia, and that the global sanctions that the United Nations has on North Korea are still in place.

Pompeo also brought up the danger of famine in North Korea.

“There was a U.N. report that came out on Friday. Fifty percent of the North Korean population at risk of significant malnutrition, that is, it’s a very difficult set of conditions there. We want a brighter future. That’s why the president continue talks about this [sic]. It’s important,” Pompeo told ABC.

Pompeo said that the sanctions would still allow aid.

“[I]t’s permissible for humanitarian assistance, that is, the sanctions permit the North Koreans to purchase food products,” Pompeo told ABC.

Pompeo also expressed disappointment in the North Korean government’s having the means to deal with the nutrition issue but choosing to use their finances on missile tests instead of food.

“That’s why when I see things like happen on Friday night, where that money could have gone to taking care of his own people, it’s so unfortunate.”

The official statement from the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run news outlet, stated a purported reason for the drills while avoiding mentioning any specific military intentions.

“The purpose of the drill was to estimate and inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance of large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defence units in the frontline area and on the eastern front and the combat performance of arms and equipment and to more powerfully arouse the entire army to the movement for becoming crackshots with the drill as an occasion and thus put it at combat readiness posture all the time,” the news release said, as obtained by KCNA Watch.

The release also mentioned Kim Jong-un’s approval of the test and his thoughts that the North Korean military is ready to respond to threats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.