- North Korea has performed its second rocket engine test in the past three months, according to reports citing US officials.
- It is possible that the tested engine could be used in intercontinental ballistic missiles – the weapon North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un seeks to develop to be able to threaten the US mainland.
- South Korean President Moon has called for stronger defense against North Korea as he visited a South Korean ballistic missile test site.
- In high-level talks in Washington, China has been pressed by the US to help rein in North Korea.
- China is uncertain exactly what “doing more” on North Korea entails, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has said.
The regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has carried out a new test of a rocket engine that could be used for powering an intercontinental ballistic missile, the weapon that can threaten directly the US mainland, according to a report citing US officials.
North Korea had tested a new high-thrust rocket engine under the “supervision” of its “supreme” leader Kim Jong-un as recently as March 2017.
Earlier this week, on behalf of the Kim Jong-un regime, North Korea’s Ambassador to India offered the US a conditional moratorium on his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The offer which is seen as an attempt to hold direct talks with the US comes against the backdrop of the death of US college student Otto Warmbier who has passed away after 17 months in North Korean captivity, and South Korea’s decision to suspend the further deployment of the US THAAD missile shield.
In the latest of its constant ballistic missile provocations, in early June, North Korea fired several anti-ship cruise missiles.
North Korea’s previous ballistic missile firing was at the end of May when the regime of Kim Jong-un has alleged that its had been a successful test of a precision-guided system as it was known to be in pursuit of developing an “aircraft carrier killer”, i.e. an anti-ship ballistic missile.
North Korea has performed 11th ballistic missile tests since Donald Trump became President of the United States, with eight successful and three failed tests.
North Korea’s regime has claimed that its new rocket could deliver a “large heavy nuclear warhead” all the way to the US mainland.
Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.
There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive US missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.
In early June, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed new sanctions on North Korea and entities trading with it over its ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea’s Rocket Engine Test
North Korea’s regime has carried out another test of a rocket engine that could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the US homeland, a US official told Reuters.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official said the United States assessed that the test could be for the smallest stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rocket engine.
A second US official also confirmed the test but did not provide additional details on the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the ICBM program.
North Korea’s state media, which is normally quick to publicize successful missile-related developments, did not carry any reports on the engine test.
South Korean officials did not have details about the reported rocket engine test.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China opposed any action that violated UN Security Council resolutions and called for restraint from all parties.
South Korea’s Own Ballistic Missile Program
“I believe in dialogue, but dialogue is possible when it’s backed by strong defense and engagement policy is possible only when we have security ability that can overwhelm the North,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, as he inspected the test launch of a ballistic missile on Friday.
Moon was elected on a platform of seeking engagement with North Korea.
Moon’s office did not disclose the details of the missile being tested, but Reuters points out that South Korea has been working to develop ballistic missiles with a range of 800 km (500 miles), a voluntary cap under an agreement with the United States.
The United States has tried for years to discourage South Korea from developing longer-range ballistic missiles in keeping with the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary international arms-control pact.
China ‘Pressured to Pressure’
The reports that North Korea has tested a new rocket engine that could be potentially be used for ICBMs came a day after the United States pressed China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to scale down its nuclear and missile programs during a round of high-level talks in Washington.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon told Reuters that he planned to call on Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a greater role in reining in Pyongyang’s arms program.
“When the world says that it hopes China can do even more, I don’t know what ‘do even more’ refers to,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng told a daily news briefing in Beijing on Friday.
“We’ve said many times that China is making unremitting efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and plays an active and constructive role,” he said.
According to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told US President Donald Trump in a meeting at the White House that Beijing was willing to “maintain communication and coordination” with the United States in an effort to defuse tension on the Korean Peninsula.