N Korea hails launch of new rocket engine
NORTH Korea has successfully tested a new high-powered rocket engine, state media said yesterday, a move Seoul said was designed to showcase its progress toward being able to target the US east coast.
The ground test comes less than two weeks after Pyongyang detonated what it said was a miniaturised atomic bomb.
Taken together, the two tests raise the prospect that the isolated state could be inching toward its ultimate goal of developing a nucleartipped missile that could hit Washington DC.
State-run news agency KCNA trumpeted the engine test, which it said would give the country “sufficient carrier capability for launching various kinds of satellites”.
Rocket engines are easily re-purposed for use in missiles, and observers say that Pyongyang’s space program is a fig leaf for weapons tests.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un hailed the test and called for more rocket launches to turn the country into a “possessor of geostationary satellites in a couple of years to come”, KCNA said.
A geostationary satellite must be propelled to an altitude of 36,000 kilometres (22,500 miles) to be successful, a Unification Ministry official was quoted as saying by South Korea’s official Yonhap news agency.
“The distance to the eastern part of the United States is some 12,000 kilometres. The North is thus showing off its ability” to hit the US east coast, the official added.
Rocket scientist Chae Yeon-Seok at the South’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute said such an engine would represent “a technical leap forward” in developing launch vehicles.
It suggests the North is “coming close to having an inter-continental ballistic missile [ICBM] that could hit the US mainland”.
Pyongyang regularly parades homegrown missiles and boasts of its plan to develop long-range missiles capable of targeting America.
It has already carried out a series of long-range missile tests presented as satellite launches, most recently in February, and has fired missiles from a submarine.
A proven submarine launched ballistic missile system would allow deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a “second-strike” capability in the event of an attack on the North’s military bases.
North Korea has been hit by five sets of UN sanctions since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006, but has insisted it will continue.
Yonhap news agency said two B-52 heavy bombers were to be sent from Guam to the South as a fresh show of force against the North this week. –
A man watches a television news report, Kim Jong-Un looking at the country’s lat at a railway station in Seoul yesterday.
showing North Korean leader test ground test for a rocket engine,