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North Korean leader Kim supervises latest test of new multiple rocket launcher

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test firing of a new multiple rocket launch system the country plans to deploy to its forces starting this year, state media said Saturday, part of its move to bolster its lineup of weapons targeting South Korean population centers.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday’s test confirmed the “advantage and destructive power” of the 240-millimeter multiple rocket launcher and its guided shells. The agency said the system, which the North already tested twice this year, will be deployed to combat units from 2024 to 2026 to replace older weapons.

North Korea in recent months has maintained an accelerated pace in weapons testing as it expands its military capabilities while diplomacy with the United States and South Korea remains stalled. Experts say Kim’s goal is to eventually pressure the United States into accepting the idea of the North as a nuclear power and negotiating economic and security concessions from a position of strength.

North Korea has focused on artillery systems in recent weeks. Its testing activities included salvo launches of 600-mm multiple rocket launchers in April that state media described as a simulated nuclear counterattack against enemy targets.

The North also this year conducted various cruise missile tests and flight-tested what it described as a solid-fuel intermediate range missile with hypersonic warhead capabilities. Experts say it is designed to reach remote U.S. targets in the Pacific, including the military hub of Guam.

Following Friday’s test, Kim issued instructions to maximize the production of the 240-mm multiple rocket launchers and their guided shells, which he said would bring a