North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally monitored the ground test of a new high-thrust rocket engine, the North Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday (18 March). The move could raise fresh tensions in the divided Korean peninsula.
In what is being considered a provocative act, Kim said that Pyongyang has now given a "new birth" to the rocket industry with the latest powerful engine, which would propel the country to deliver world-class satellite launching capabilities.
The launch took place amid tensions in the region as the North's adversaries – South Korea and the US – have been stepping up measures to clamp down on Pyongyang's missile and nuclear activities. However, the regime has reportedly refused to scale down its missiles tests.
In a statement carried by the state-run news outlet read: "He [Kim] noted that the success made in the current test marked a great event of historic significance as it declared a new birth of the Juche-based rocket industry which has radically turned into a development-and creation-oriented industry both in name and in reality by completely doing away with dogmatism, conservatism and formalism left in the field of rocket industry and the dependence on the technology of other countries."
"Juche" or self-reliance is the official state ideology of North Korea, described by the government as "original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought".
It statement continued, "He [Kim] emphasised that the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries." The new engine is an ambitious development with regards to North Korea's long-range missiles.
The test has also as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in China – a key ally of North Korea – after wrapping up his tour to South Korea and Japan as part of his six-day Asia visit.