North Korea says it tested rocket engine 'of historic significance'

Ross Houston
March 30, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian police said Sunday that they are hunting for more North Korean suspects over the killing of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Un has presided over a rocket engine test "of historic significance, " North Korean state media said Sunday, a test that coincided with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to neighboring China.

Outside observers say that the nuclear-armed Pyongyang's space programme is a fig leaf for weapons tests.

America's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last Friday that two decades of worldwide efforts to end the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs had failed.

US aerospace expert John Schilling, a contributor to the 38 North North Korea monitoring website, said the motor appeared too big for any ICBM North Korea has been known to be working on, but would be a good fit for the second stage of a new space rocket it is planning - or for a yet-unknown ICBM design.

It was not immediately clear whether Xi and Tillerson discussed North Korea's latest thumb in the eye.

Chinese president Xi Jinping and U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Sunday pledged to work to strengthen a relationship strained by disputes over North Korea and trade.

"[We] will have to closely monitor how the rocket engine will be used down the road", the Seoul official was quoted as telling reporters by local news agency Yonhap.

Judging from pictures released by the government over the weekend, the communist regime's dictator Kim Jong Un was all smiles as he watched his generals launch the high-thrust rocket engine from the Sohae launch station. "If the North carries out a flight test of its new rocket, the most likely time is next month, which includes the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung on March 15 and the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the North Korean army on March 25", said Kim Chang-soo, director of research at the Korea National Strategy Institute.

"I can't reveal much but there are several more people we are going after, other than the three North Koreans who we believe are holed up at their embassy in Kuala Lumpur", Khalid said after launching a donation drive for retired policemen in conjunction with the 210th Police Day celebration at Taming Sari here yesterday.

Although North Korea has never flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, it has recently demonstrated significant progress in its missile programs with new engines that could potentially deliver a nuclear warhead as far away as the United States.

After personally overseeing the test, Mr Kim "emphasised that the world will soon witness the great significance of the epoch-making victory we achieved today", KCNA reported, adding that it marked the birth of the country's rocket industry. However, analysts have long accused Pyongyang of using the program as a covert weapons testing scheme.

North Korean officials have said that under a five-year plan they intend to launch more Earth observation satellites and what would be the country's first geostationary communications satellite - which would be a major technological advance.

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