SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Sunday leader Kim Jong Un supervised test-firings of an unspecified new weapons system, which extended a streak of weapons demonstrations that are seen as an attempt to build leverage ahead of negotiations with the United States.
The report by North Korean state media came hours after President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed a desire to meet again to start nuclear negotiations after joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises end and apologized for the flurry of recent short-range ballistic launches that rattled U.S. allies in the region.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry in a separate statement on Sunday blasted South Korea for continuing its military drills with the United States, and it said that future dialogue will be held strictly between Pyongyang and Washington and not between the Koreas.
The report by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency came a day after South Korea's military said it detected the North launching what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea. North Korea's fifth round of weapons launches in less than three weeks was seen as a protest of the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and continuance of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises the North claims are an invasion rehearsal.
Experts say Trump's downplaying of the North's launches allowed the country more room to intensify its testing activity while it seeks to build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could possibly resume after the end of the U.S.-South Korea drills later this month.
Hours after the latest launches, Trump tweeted that Kim spent much of his letter complaining about "the ridiculous and expensive" U.S.-South Korea military exercises. He said that Kim offered him "a small apology" for the flurry of missile tests, and that he assured him they would stop when the exercises end.