Advertisement

North Korea says it carried out ‘very important test’ at rocket launch site

U.S. adviser says they hope North Korea makes the ‘right choice’ in wake of reported missile test
WATCH: U.S. adviser says they hope North Korea makes the 'right choice' in wake of reported missile test

North Korea said Sunday that it carried out a “very important test” at its long-range rocket launch site that it reportedly rebuilt after having partially dismantled it at the start of denuclearization talks with the United States last year.

The announcement comes amid dimming prospects for a resumption of negotiations, with the North threatening to seek “a new way” if it fails to get major U.S. concessions by year’s end. North Korea has said its resumption of nuclear and long-range missile tests depends on the United States.

Saturday’s test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground will have “an important effect on changing the strategic position of (North Korea) once again in the near future,” an unidentified spokesman from the North’s Academy of National Defense Science said in a statement, carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

READ MORE: Denuclearization off the negotiating table with U.S., North Korea’s UN envoy says

Story continues below advertisement

North Korea didn’t say what the test included. Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said that North Korea likely tested for the first time a solid-fuel engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The use of solid fuel increases a weapon’s mobility and reduces the amount of launch preparation time. The long-range rockets that North Korea used in either ICBM launches or satellite liftoffs in recent years all used liquid propellants.

CNN reported Friday that a new satellite image indicated North Korea may be preparing to resume testing engines used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles at the site.

Denuclearization off negotiating table: North Korea’s U.N. envoy
Denuclearization off negotiating table: North Korea’s U.N. envoy

Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a brief statement later Sunday that South Korea and the United States are closely monitoring activities at the Sohae site and other key North Korean areas.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed developments related to North Korea, and the two leaders committed to continuing close communication, the White House said in a statement. Moon’s office also released a similar statement, saying the two leaders had a 30-minute phone conversation at Trump’s request.

The North Korean test “is meant to improve military capabilities and to shore up domestic pride and legitimacy,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “With the activity at Sohae, Pyongyang is also trying to raise international concerns that it may intensify provocations and walk away from denuclearization talks next year.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Sohae launching center in Tongchang-ri, a seaside region in western North Korea, is where the North has carried out banned satellite launches in recent years, resulting in worldwide condemnation and U.N. sanctions over claims that they were disguised tests of long-range missile technology.

READ MORE: North Korea threatens to call Trump ‘dotard’ again, if he calls Kim Jong Un ‘rocket man’

North Korea has said its satellite launches are part of its peaceful space development program. But many outside experts say ballistic missiles and rockets used in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology. None of North Korea’s three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017 was conducted at the Sohae site, but observers said the site was used to test engines for ICBMs.

After his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June last year, Trump said Kim told him that North Korea was “already destroying a major missile engine testing site” in addition to committing to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Satellite imagery later showed the North dismantling a rocket engine-testing stand and other facilities at the Sohae site. Last March, South Korea’s spy agency and some U.S. experts said that North Korea was restoring the facilities, raising doubts about whether it was committed to denuclearization.

Trump on North Korea: if U.S. has to use military force, ‘we’ll do it’
Trump on North Korea: if U.S. has to use military force, ‘we’ll do it’

U.S.-North Korea diplomacy has largely remained deadlocked since the second summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February due to disputes over how much sanctions relief the North must get in return for dismantling its key nuclear complex — a limited disarmament step.

Story continues below advertisement

North Korea has since warned that the U.S. must abandon hostile policies and come out with new acceptable proposals by the end of this year or it would take an unspecified new path. In recent months, North Korea has performed a slew of short-range missile and other weapons launches and hinted at lifting its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missiles.

North Korea said the results of Saturday’s test were submitted to the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. The North said last week that the Central Committee will hold a meeting in late December to discuss unspecified “crucial issues” in line with “the changed situation at home and abroad.”

North Korea launches Thanksgiving message for the U.S.
North Korea launches Thanksgiving message for the U.S.

At the United Nations, a statement released by North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Kim Song, said Saturday that denuclearization had “already gone out of the negotiation table.”

The statement accused the Trump administration of persistently pursuing a “hostile policy” toward the country “in its attempt to stifle it.” The statement was a response to Wednesday’s condemnation by six European countries of North Korea’s 13 ballistic missile launches since May.

The North Korean diplomat accused the Europeans — France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Estonia — of playing “the role of pet dog of the United States in recent months.”

“We regard their behaviour as nothing more than a despicable act of intentionally flattering the United States,” the ambassador said.

Story continues below advertisement
North Korea says it’s ‘no longer interested’ in talks with U.S. just so Trump can boast, official says
North Korea says it’s ‘no longer interested’ in talks with U.S. just so Trump can boast, official says

In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Trump said Kim Jong Un is “too smart” and has “far too much to lose” if he “acts in a hostile way.”

“He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump wrote. “He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November.”

He added that under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has “tremendous economic potential,” but that it must “denuclearize as promised.”

“NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!” Trump wrote.

Story continues below advertisement

-With files from Global News