North Korea claims successful test of high-thrust rocket engine amid Tillerson Asia tour

by WorldTribune Staff, March 19, 2017

North Korea’s state-run news agency reported that Pyongyang has successfully tested a “new type” of high-thrust rocket engine seen as a step closer to the realization of Kim Jong-Un’s vow to launch an ICBM this year.

The reported test came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the U.S. is contemplating a pre-emptive military attack on North Korea and as he was traveling to Beijing.

Photo released by KCNA on March 19 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un monitoring the test of a newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground. /STR/AFP/Getty Images

Kim called the test “a great event of historic significance” for North Korea’s indigenous rocket industry, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report said.

The “whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries,” Kim said, adding that the test marks what will be known as the “March 18 revolution” in the development of the country’s rocket industry.

Tillerson told reporters in Seoul on March 17 that the U.S. wasn’t interested in conducting direct talks with North Korea to halt its weapons program, saying instead that tighter sanctions enforcement and the possibility of a military strike were being considered as part of a continuing policy review by the Trump administration.

“All options are on the table,” Tillerson said.

Kim Jong-Un attended the March 18 test at the Sohae launch site, according KCNA, which said the test was intended to confirm the “new type” of engine’s thrust power and gauge the reliability of its control system and structural safety.

The report indicated that the new engine will be used for Pyongyang’s space and satellite-launching program.

North Korea, which is banned by the United Nations from conducting long-range missile tests, said it intends to launch more Earth observation satellites and what would be the country’s first geostationary communications satellite. Getting that kind of satellite into place would likely require a more powerful engine than its previous ones, the Associated Press reported.

Pyongyang also claims it is trying to build a viable space program that would include a moon launch within the next 10 years.