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North Korea says it tested 'super-large' rocket launcher

North Korea announced on Monday that it successfully tested a super-large rocket launcher, the country's fourth weapons test in March. Photo by EPA-EFE/KCNA
North Korea announced on Monday that it successfully tested a "super-large" rocket launcher, the country's fourth weapons test in March. Photo by EPA-EFE/KCNA

SEOUL, March 30 (UPI) -- North Korea successfully tested "super-large multiple rocket launchers," state-run media reported Monday, one day after the communist country fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.

The test was meant to "verify once again the tactical and technological specifications of the launch system to be delivered to units of the Korean People's Army," the Korea Central News Agency reported.

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South Korea's military announced Sunday that it had detected two projectiles fired from the Wonsan area on North Korea's east coast. The missiles traveled a distance of 143 miles and reached an altitude of approximately 19 miles.

"Because the world is currently dealing with COVID-19, North Korea's military action is extremely inappropriate and we urge it to stop immediately," South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.

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Sunday's launch marked the fourth weapons test by Pyongyang in March and came roughly a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed a demonstration firing of a "tactical guided weapon."

Kim's attendance was not reported at the launch on Sunday. The test was overseen by Ri Pyong Chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, KCNA said.

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"The operational deployment of the weapon system of super-large multiple rocket launchers is a crucial work of very great significance in realizing a new strategic intention of the Party Central Committee for national defense," Ri was quoted as saying.

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"The test-fire was conducted successfully," KCNA added.

Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have stalled since a summit last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, failed to produce an agreement.

After a 17-month hiatus, Pyongyang conducted more than a dozen weapons tests throughout the latter half of 2019, launching several short-range ballistic missiles, including its first submarine-launched missile and a version of the highly maneuverable Russian Iskander.

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In December, the North carried out a pair of what it called "crucial" tests at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which analysts suggested could be a long-range rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

At the end of 2019, Kim announced that there was no longer any reason for North Korea to be "unilaterally bound" to its commitment to halt nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile tests and warned of a "new strategic weapon" coming soon.

Sunday's launch came a week after North Korea announced that Trump had sent a letter to Kim offering assistance in battling the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump confirmed sending the letter, calling it a "glad hand" to Pyongyang.

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North Korea has denied it has any cases of COVID-19, although many observers question that claim. Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said that anecdotal evidence such as a lack of military activity indicates that there are very likely cases in the country.

"It is a closed-off nation, so we can't say emphatically that they have cases, but we're fairly certain they do," he said.

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