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North Korea tests high-thrust rocket

NORTH Korea has conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine that leader Kim Jong Un is calling a revolutionary breakthrough for the country’s space program, its state media said yesterday.

Kim attended Saturday’s test at the Sohae launch site, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which said the test was intended to confirm the “new type” of engine’s thrust power and gauge the reliability of its control system and structural safety.

Kim called the test “a great event of historic significance” for the country’s indigenous rocket industry, the agency report said.

He also said the “whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries” and claimed the test marks what will be known as the “March 18 revolution” in the development of the country’s rocket industry.

The report indicated the engine is to be used for North Korea’s space and satellite-launching program.

North Korea is banned by the United Nations from conducting long-range missile tests, but it claims its satellite program is for peaceful use.

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.

Getting that kind of satellite into place would likely require a more powerful engine than its previous ones. North Korea also claims it is trying to build a viable space program that would include a moon launch within the next 10 years.

The test was conducted as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in China on a swing through Asia that has been closely focused on concerns over how to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

It is not known whether the test was deliberately timed to coincide with Tillerson’s visit, but Pyongyang has been highly critical of ongoing US-South Korea military drills and often conducts some sort of high-profile operation in protest.

Earlier this month, it fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, reportedly reaching within 200 kilometers of Japan’s shoreline. Japan was Tillerson’s first stop before South Korea and China.


 

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