Kim Jong Un has ordered more warheads and solid-fuel rocket engines for long range missiles – as images emerged appearing to show at least one new weapon design.
Concept diagrams of the missiles could be seen hanging on walls behind the North Korean leader as he was photographed inspecting the work of the country’s Chemical Material Institute of The Academy of Defence Science.
It comes just hours after US President Donald Trump told Americans Mr Kim was “starting to respect us”, following a tense stand off with Pyongyang.
The authoritarian country’s state-run broadcaster KRT showed still photographs of a smiling Mr Kim visiting the munitions factory, dressed in a grey pinstripe suit.
The dictator was briefed about the missile manufacturing process during his tour, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
“He instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips by further expanding engine production process and the production capacity of rocket warhead tips and engine jets by carbon/carbon compound material,” KCNA said.
Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, said one of the missiles pictured- a Pukguksong-3 – was “definitely new”.
North Korea has carried out out two nuclear tests and a series of missile tests since the start of last year, which have heightened tensions on the divided peninsula and prompted international condemnation.
Two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July led to a fresh round of tougher global sanctions.
The last missile test on 28 July put major US cities in range, with the resulting war of words raising fears of a new conflict.
Tensions were further heightened with South Korea and the US conducting an annual joint military exercise, which the North has branded as preparation for invasion.
However, there are signs of an easing of the stand off with North Korea ln the light of Mr Trump’s comments and the absence of the usual anti-US rhetoric by Pyongyang.