North Korea conducts another ‘crucial test’ at long-range rocket launch site
Announcement comes as North continues to pressure Trump in bid to salvage nuclear talks
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a meeting with President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 28th, 2019. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times
North Korea says it has successfully performed another “crucial test” at its long-range rocket launch site that would further strengthen its “reliable strategic nuclear deterrent”.
The announcement comes as North Korea continues to pressure the Trump administration over an end-of-year deadline set by leader Kim Jong-un to salvage faltering nuclear negotiations.
North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science did not specify what was tested on Friday.
Just days earlier, the North said it conducted a “very important test” at the site, prompting speculation that it involved a new engine for either a space launch vehicle or an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The North Korean announcement suggests that the country is preparing to do something to provoke the United States if Washington does not back down and make concessions in deadlocked nuclear negotiations.
An unnamed spokesman for the academy said scientists received warm congratulations from members from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee who attended the test on Friday night at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, where the North has conducted satellite launches and liquid-fuel missile engine tests in recent years.
The spokesman said the successful outcome of the latest test, in addition to the one last Saturday, “will be applied to further bolster up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”. referring to North Korea’s formal name.
Negotiations faltered after the United States rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities at Mr Kim’s second summit with president Donald Trump in Vietnam in February.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim met for a third time in June at the border between North and South Korea and agreed to resume talks.
But an October working-level meeting in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude”.
Saturday’s news of the test came after US Ambassador Kelly Craft on Wednesday criticised the North’s ballistic testing activity during a UN Security Council meeting, saying that the tests were “deeply counterproductive” and risk closing the door on prospects for negotiating peace.
She also cited North Korean hints of “a resumption of serious provocations”, which she said would mean they could launch space vehicles using long-range ballistic missile technology or test ICBMs, “which are designed to attack the continental United States with nuclear weapons”.
While Ms Craft said that the Trump administration is “prepared to be flexible” and take concrete, parallel steps toward an agreement on resuming talks, North Korea described her comments as a “hostile provocation” and warned that Washington may have squandered its chance at salvaging the fragile nuclear diplomacy.–PA