North Korea has successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rocket engine that will give them the ability to launch nuclear strikes on the United States, DPRK state media reported on Saturday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was said to have ordered and personally supervised the rocket engine’s ground test at the DPRK’s Sohae Space Centre, a missile launch site near the west coast, the Korean Central News Agency reported, saying the moment Kim gave the order to begin the test, “the engine spewed out huge flames with a deafening boom.”
The Korea Times quoted a rather aggressive statement by Kim himself in the wake of the alleged engine test.
“The great success made in the test provided a firm guarantee for us to mount another form of nuclear attack upon the U.S. imperialists and other hostile forces, and makes it possible to have access to more powerful means of reacting to nukes in kind. Now, North Korea can tip a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile with more powerful nuclear warheads, keeping any cesspool of evil buried in the earth, including the U.S., by keeping them within our striking range and reducing them to ashes so that they may not survive on our planet.”
These claims, if true, would be the latest in a series of North Korean claims of significant advances in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In March, the North claimed to have miniaturized a nuclear warhead to be mounted on ballistic missiles and have conducted a simulated re-entry.
The Straits Times noted that international relations with North Korea have greatly worsened in recent months, and its rhetoric has become more belligerent.
“Military tensions on the divided Korean peninsula have been rising since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket test a month later that was seen as a disguised ballistic missile test. The UN Security Council responded with its toughest sanctions to date over the North’s nuclear programme, and Pyongyang accused Seoul and Washington of spearheading the sanctions drive in New York.”
As of now there is no independent confirmation of the reports and very little detail is available. South Korea and outside experts have raised doubts about the authenticity of the claims, saying that the North Korean leadership is trying to bluff and exaggerate its standing power and achievements ahead of the Workers’ Party Congress, which is scheduled for May 7 and will be the first congress of its kind in 36 years.
Still, if even part of what the North says about its nuclear-armed long-range missiles is true, the international community is likely to find the news alarming. The DPRK has been the subject of international sanctions for years because of its nuclear testing, which Washington and its allies consider provocations. The situation wasn’t helped by statements made by North Korean state media in March, which threatened “pre-emptive” nuclear strikes on the United States and South Korea.
Though North Korea saw its fourth atomic test on January 6 of this year, and a satellite rocket launch in February widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test, it has never tested an ICBM. It displayed a missile, known as the KN-08, during recent military parades in Pyongyang, though many experts believe they are still years away from obtaining ICBM technology.
Others, such as Uk Yang, a North Korea expert at Korea Defense and Security Forum, urged caution.
“North Korea seems to be trying to tell the world that their repeated recent threats about launching nuclear strikes on the U.S. are not bluffing,” he said to CNBC. “By disclosing their ICBM technology bit by bit and today’s test, if successful, confirms that they have booster technology for ICBM missile.”
South Korean analysts suspect the North may conduct a fifth nuclear test before the congress. Officials say they are fully prepared for such a possibility.
[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]