North Korea conducted another rocket engine test Friday, two U.S. defense officials told CNN Monday.
One of the officials reportedly said that preliminary assessments indicated that the engine could be used for an “eventual intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM].” The latest test is the second in less than a week, as the North successfully carried out a high-thrust rocket engine test on March 19. Some observers suggested that the first test was a “dangerous step” towards the development of a reliable ICBM capable of striking targets in the U.S.
It is, however, unclear whether these engines are for North Korea’s weapons program or its space program.
Pyongyang is eager to develop an ICBM with the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S. and has been outspoken about its plans to test an ICBM in the near future.
“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s address, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
“Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down [America’s] spine,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun wrote a few weeks later.
North Korea has been particularly aggressive in recent weeks. The North tested a new type of solid-fueled, road-mobile, mid-range ballistic missile in late February, launched four extended-range scuds into the Sea of Japan in early March, attempted another missile test last week, and conducted two high-thrust rocket engine tests.
The North is also reportedly ramping up for a sixth nuclear test, which is expected soon.
“Our military recognized that North Korea is continuing its activities to sophisticate its missile capability,” a spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters. “We are keeping close tabs on such activities in cooperation with the United States.”
Interestingly, North Koreans living outside of the capital are apparently growing dissatisfied with the North’s growing missile program.
“There are an increasing number of people who are suffering from malnutrition in agricultural regions. People in these rural areas resent the fact that there aren’t enough potatoes to feed the people, yet the government is obsessed with missiles. What difference in our lives will launching a missile make?” a source inside North Korea told Daily NK.
The government is more concerned with security than the welfare of its people.
Much of the North’s hostility has been directed at the ongoing Foal Eagle joint military exercises. North Korea threatened Sunday to launch a preemptive strike against U.S. and South Korean troops training on the Korean peninsula for a future conflict.
“The [Korean People’s Army] will not remain a passive onlooker to hordes of robbers trying to hurt our people with daggers,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency wrote, military officials. “The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces.”
Department of State spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen reportedly told Voice of America Tuesday that the U.S. is prepared to fight off any kind of North Korean attack.