Latest satellite images of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Site in North Pyongan province show preparation for a new rocket engine test that the country’s media claimed on Tuesday was successful. The test was conducted within a fortnight of the isolated Asian country carrying out its fifth nuclear test.
The rocket engine would provide the country with “sufficient carrier capability for launching various kinds of satellites, including Earth observation satellite at a world level,” according to Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA report added the test was supervised by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un who called for more rocket launches to make the reclusive country into a “possessor of geostationary satellites in a couple of years to come.”
Meanwhile, 38 North — a website and think tank dedicated to North Korea — said commercial satellite imagery from Saturday showed several activities connected to the rocket engine test preparations. The U.S. think tank reported that a heavy-lift crane could be seen placed next to the vertical engine test stand, and the rail-mounted environmental shelter that bolstered the engine stage was arranged mid-way up the approach ramp. Two small vehicles at the VIP observation facility — from where Kim observed a test conducted this April — and ground scarring to west of the test stand were other test-related activities.
World powers have viewed previous satellite launches as a disguise for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, equipped to mount a nuclear warhead.
North Korea has been subject to global condemnation for its latest nuclear test on Sept. 9. In the past, Pyongyang has actively carried out nuclear and missile tests, angering its rival and neighbor South Korea, as well as other world powers including the U.S., Japan, Russia and even China — the North’s only major diplomatic partner.
The United Nations Security Council blamed the Kim Jong Un-led country for “flagrant disregard” and “clear violation” of existing U.N. resolutions. South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the nuclear test showed Kim was guilty of “maniacal recklessness” in completely ignoring the world’s efforts to bring an end to his nuclear tests.