SEOUL – North Korea has carried out a successful ground test of a new high-power rocket engine, state media said today, in a development that could advance Pyongyang’s weapons programme.
After supervising the test at the country’s Sohae satellite-launching site, leader Kim Jong-Un called on officials, scientists and technicians "to round off the preparations for launching the satellite as soon as possible," KCNA news agency reported.
There has been speculation that North Korea might celebrate the October 10 anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers Party of Korea by launching a satellite.
Kim also called for more rocket launches to turn the country into a "possessor of geostationary satellites in a couple of years to come," according to KCNA.
North Korea has already carried out a series of long-range missile tests presented as satellite launches, most recently in February.
KCNA said the government would give the country "sufficient carrier capability for launching various kinds of satellites, including Earth observation satellite at a world level."
Rocket scientist Chae Yeon-Seok at Korea Aerospace Research Institute said that with the new engine, the North is "coming close to having an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could hit the US mainland."
"North Korea’s space programme is focused on developing launch vehicles that can easily be used for missiles rather than developing decent satellites," Chae said.
The engine test comes after the North claimed earlier this month that it had successfully tested a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a missile and follows a series of ballistic missile launches.
The September 9 nuclear test was the North’s fifth and most powerful yet at 10 kilotons, experts have said.
Pyongyang’s state media said that test had realised the country’s goal of being able to fit a miniaturised warhead on a rocket. – AFP