North Korea's Kim Guides New Rocket Engine Test, Calls for Satellite Launch
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ground test of a new rocket engine to launch satellites, the North's state media reported on Tuesday, the latest in a rapid succession of missile-related tests this year by Pyongyang.
Kim asked the scientists and engineers to make "preparations for launching the satellite as soon as possible on the basis of the successful test," the official KCNA news agency said, indicating the North may soon launch another long-range rocket.
The test was conducted amid global condemnation of the North's fifth nuclear test earlier this month and a call by the United States, Japan and South Korea this week for greater pressure on Pyongyang over its disregard for United Nations resolutions banning missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate this year under Kim's direction, including the launch of a satellite in February that was widely seen as a test of long-range ballistic missile technology.
The North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried photographs of Kim on a podium overlooking the vertical test stand that housed a rocket engine which blasted a column of flame.
A spokesman for South Korea's military, Jeon Ha-gyu, said the test was likely of the performance of a new engine that can be used for a long-range missile.
A satellite image dated Sept 17 provided to Reuters by the Washington-based 38 North showed preparations for an engine test, including a heavy crane over the vertical engine test stand and a shelter that would house the rocket engine.
"This test is another important development pointing to the first launch of a bigger, better space vehicle to place satellites in higher orbits, which could happen in the not too distant future," said Joel Wit, founder of the 38 North website, which monitors North Korea.
North Korea claimed after its nuclear test this month that it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, a worrying prospect for neighbors South Korea and Japan.