North Korea has carried out a ground test of a new rocket engine under the supervision of its leader Kim Jong-un in a clear sign that Pyongyang is not scaling back its missile-related activities. The country hailed the test of the high-powered rocket engine as a "success".
Following the test, Kim has urged the reclusive country's scientists to prepare for a satellite launch strengthening speculation that the North may launch it around 10 October to mark the founding day of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
The 30-something leader visited Sohae Space Centre, a newly renovated rocket station where a recent satellite launch took place, to guide the test. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the rocket engine "showed that thrust and other technological indexes of the engine accurately reached the estimated values and the feature values of all systems of the engine remained stable throughout the working time".
Pyongyang's latest missile-related activity has come at a time when there is global condemnation on its fifth underground nuclear test on 9 September. That was the North's most powerful nuclear test to date while UN Security Council powers are still mulling over an appropriate response to the defiant act.
"North Korea's space programme is focused on developing launch vehicles that can easily be used for missiles rather than developing decent satellites," a rocket scientist at the Chae Yeon-Seok Aerospace Research institute told the AFP news agency.
Satellite images captured by the monitoring site 38 North confirm there were activities on 17 September at the North Korean space centre.