By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent,
The US does not believe North Korea successfully launched a fully operational new weapon after Pyongyang claimed it had conducted a “new tactical guided weapons firing test” on Wednesday, according to a US official directly familiar with the latest assessment.
The initial US intelligence assessment is North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, rather than a fully operational new weapon, the official told CNN on Thursday.
The assessment is based on a review of information gathered from satellites and aircraft that did not register any indication of a launch of any type of short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile, the official said.
North Korea’s state media agency reported that the country’s leader Kim Jong Un inspected and directed the test.
The US believes if North Korea had launched a fully functioning anti-tank weapon their sensors would have likely picked up some indication it had been fired. That did not happen, the official said.
Sensor data that the US has been able to review indicated the components were inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability, the official said. The US believes the component testing was most likely motivated by Kim deciding to send a message to the US that he still had a test capability without engaging in a major provocation, the official said.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday characterized North Korea’s test as a “new tactical guided weapons firing test,” that was “not a ballistic missile,” and there was “no change to our operation or posture,” as a result of the test.
Eric Brewer, a former director for counterproliferation at the National Security Council, said that the test was “not that concerning” and said it was intended to up the pressure on the Trump administration following the failed Hanoi summit.
These types of low-level provocations are expected, he said.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to come out and raise or condemn or make hay of this weapons test,” he said when asked whether the administration should respond publicly. “It’s wise for us to just sort of continue to focus on making headway on diplomacy and ignore those sorts of comments” on North Korea.
The news of the test on Wednesday came hours before North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a stinging rebuke of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun said Pompeo had been “letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day.”
Kwon said Kim had made his “principled stand” on negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington clear in a recent speech to the country’s rubberstamp parliament.
“Everyone has a clear interpretation of his speech which says that the US should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year,” Kwon said.
A US State Department spokesperson said Thursday they were “aware of the report” of Kwon’s remarks.
“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” the spokesperson said.