N.K. leader inspects test-fire of new anti-aircraft weapon

SEOUL-- North Korea's leader has recently inspected the test-fire of a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon system, ordering its mass-production and deployment to bolster its air supremacy, Pyongyang's state media said Sunday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim Jong-un watched "the successful test" organized by the Academy of National Defence Science, without revealing the date and location.

Kim told the Korean People's Army (KPA) officials and those at the academy that the weapon system's capability has been upgraded compared with last year in terms of efficiency to detect and track targets, as well as strike accuracy, according to the KCNA.

Kim previously guided the test of an anti-air guided weapon system in April 2016, and the latest test appears to be focusing on improving its surface-to-air guided missiles deployed last year.

"Some defects in the weapon system, discovered last year, were perfectly overcome to stand the test," Kim was quoted as saying in English by the KCNA. "This weapon system, whose operation capability has been thoroughly verified, should be mass-produced to deploy in all over the country like forests so as to completely spoil the enemy's wild dream to command the air, boasting of air supremacy and weapon almighty."

Kim also emphasized that the communist nation should also pursue the development of a "next generation" anti-aircraft guided weapon system, according to the KCNA.

The KCNA said Kim was accompanied by Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of the KPA, and Ri Yong-gil, vice chief of the KPA general staff.

Given North Korea's state media usually reports Kim's inspections a day after they actually take place, the test of the weapon system is believed to have been conducted Saturday. It also comes after Pyongyang claimed a South Korean military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) violated its airspace.

The KCNA previously reported that the South's surveillance plane, called the Heron, flew over its western border area four times between 7:46 a.m. and 8:40 p.m. Friday.

Military experts here said the surface-to-air missile tested appears to be the KN-06 with a maximum range of 150 kilometers, after analyzing photos released by Rodong Sinmun, an official daily of the North's ruling Workers' Party. They added that the latest test may have been conducted in South Hamkyong Province in the North's northeastern area, where the weapon was tested in 2016.

North Korea first unveiled the KN-06 system during a military parade to mark the 65th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party in October 2010. It was also observed at a military parade on April 15 this year to mark the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung.

The Rodong Sinmun reported that the KN-06, considered the most powerful surface-to-air missile that North Korea possess, hit various flying objects in the air that were hypothetically designed as UAVs and rockets. The KN-06 system is an air defense system that mainly strike aircraft, but experts said it's still unclear whether the weapon can intercept ballistic missiles.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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