North Korea conducts another 'crucial' test at missile base

Updated: Dec 15, 2019, 11:30 IST | Agencies | Seoul

The reported tests at its satellite launch site come ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea had put before the US to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearisation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi earlier this year. Pic/AFP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi earlier this year. Pic/AFP

Seoul: North Korea said on Saturday it has carried out "another crucial test" at its satellite launch site and the results will be used to strengthen its "reliable strategic nuclear deterrent". The unspecified test took place from 10.41 pm to 10.48 pm on Friday night at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, better known as the Dongchang-ri site, Yonhap News Agency reported citing the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying.

It did not say what was tested. "The research successes being registered by us in defence science one after another recently will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent," the KCNA said. "Our defence scientists were honoured to receive warm congratulations from the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea on the spot," it added.

Friday's test came about a week after the North conducted what it called "a very important test" at the satellite launch site on December 7, sparking concern that the communist nation could be preparing to launch a long-range rocket. South Korea has confirmed that the North tested a rocket engine last week. The Friday night test also came a day before US top nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun's planned visit to Seoul in an apparent bid to keep up the dialogue momentum with the North.

Speculation was growing that he could visit the inter-Korean border truce village of Panmunjom for possible contact with North Korea. The North has used the Dongchang-ri site to test rocket engines and launch vehicles to deliver satellites, and such technology could be diverted to develop and launch long-range weapons. In March 2017, North Korea successfully tested a new high-thrust engine at the station, which was employed to launch ICBMs, such as the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, later that year. The latest one took place on November 28, when Pyongyang tested its super-large multiple rocket launcher.

Uneasy truce

Saturday's news of the test came after US Ambassador Kelly Craft criticised the North's ballistic testing activity during a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, saying that the tests were "deeply counterproductive" and risk closing the door on prospects for negotiating peace.

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