North Korea Rocket Engine (Photo : Getty Images)
Kim Jong-un headed a North Korea rocket engine test, which, according to him, is “of historic significance.”
According to North Korea state media, the test was conducted on Sunday, alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to China.
“The whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries,” said Kim.
The North Korean leader declared Saturday as the “March 18 Revolution” due to the “great leaping forward” in the country’s rocket industry.
The Kim regime has a record of making overstatements and aggressive threats that it cannot support. However, the recent assertion comes in the middle of increasing tensions in the region.
Tillerson said on Friday that North Korea has been making a stable and observable progress with its missile program. “All options,” including military ones, were under discussion to restrict it.
According to Melissa Hanham, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the rocket engine that North Korea recently tested seems to be powered by liquid fuel.
The North Korean engineers have recently been working on solid fuel. However, it is easier to locate liquid fuel rockets using satellites because these rockets need more outdoor preparation.
“There is nothing about this rocket engine itself that makes me more terrified, but taken as a whole, it’s pretty clear that they are trying to give us proof of their growing missile program,” said Hanham.
In his New Year’s address, Kim said that North Korea had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile,” which would be aimed at reaching the U.S.
North Korea has fired a medium-range missile since. The missile seems to show substantial technological advancements. This month, the country has launched a barrage of four missiles, with three landing within the exclusive economic zone of Japan.
The concurrent firings appeared intended to outwit the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile battery deployed by the U.S. in South Korea. This strategy would make it difficult for the antimissile battery to shoot four targets at the same time.
Korean Central News Agency reported that the North’s Academy of the National Defence Science developed the rocket engine that was tested on Saturday. This has marked the beginning of a “Juche-based rocket industry,” implying the country’s concept of “self-reliance.”
The KCNA report is Kim’s most recent challenge to the U.S. In his statement given in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson said that “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea and that the country would use military actions if needed.
“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” President Donald Trump tweeted prior Tillerson’s flight to Beijing.
China urged the U.S. to stay “coolheaded” over North Korea and not to return to dialogue.
“No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“We hope all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a coolheaded and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” he added.
Tillerson has set a more conciliatory tone in China than he had a day before in South Korea, emphasizing that China and the U.S. shared a “common view” that North Korea must be restricted.
Missile experts wait for photos with higher resolution to get clues on what fuel was possibly used for the rocket engine, said Hanham.
The recently launched engine appears smaller than the one fired April last year. This could mean that the rocket was made for a smaller missile, or for the second stage of a larger one, like an IBM, she added.
The North Korea rocket engine test has raised alarm not only in the region but all over the world.