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There May Be More To N. Korea’s Rocket Engine Test Than Launching Satellites

KCNA via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North Korea ground tested a new type of high-power carrier rocket engine for launching geostationary satellites Tuesday, but some suspect the North is working on long-range missiles.

Kim Jong Un personally oversaw the test at the Sohae Space Center, reports the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The engine was reportedly able to generate 80 tons of thrust during the test.

Calling the engine test a success, the young dictator instructed the National Aerospace Development Administration “to round off the preparations for launching the satellite as soon as possible.”

While North Korea is interested in launching geostationary satellites, South Korean military spokesman Jeon Ha-gyu said North Korea was likely testing essential technology for a long-range missile, Reuters reports.

Some analysts suspect that North Korea is preparing to conduct a long-range missile test Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the Worker’s Party of Korea, reports The Korea Times. There are also speculations that the North will conduct a nuclear test Oct. 9, the anniversary of its first nuclear test. October may be an explosive month if these predictions are accurate.

A rocket engine capable of generating 80 tons of force is “a very powerful rocket, well beyond anything the North Koreans have shown before,” Editor for Nonproliferation Review Joshua Pollack told reporters.

North Korea launched a satellite in February; however, the test of the Kwangmyeongsong-4 rocket was widely perceived abroad as a test of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology. North Korea later tested an ICBM engine at the Sohae Space Center April 9.

Pyongyang’s new rocket engine could be for North Korea’s KN-08, or Hwasong-13, an ICBM which North Korea has yet to test.

Following North Korea’s fifth and most powerful nuclear test Sept. 9, North Korea announced that it had mastered the process required to successfully mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile. Were North Korea to actually develop nuclear-tipped ICBMs, that would pose serious risks to the U.S. and its allies in the Asia Pacific.

“The U.S. mainland and the Pacific Theater, including Hawaii and Guam, are all within our striking distance,” North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun reported Tuesday, stressing that a nuclear strike on the U.S. is now possible as the Sept. 9 test supposedly marks the “pinnacle” of all previous tests. The newspaper claimed that America’s “foolish daydream” of denuclearizing North Korea will never be realized.

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