North Korea has tested a high-thrust solid-fuel engine that experts said would enable faster and more mobile ballistic missile launches as it seeks to develop a new strategic weapon and accelerate its nuclear and missile programs.
The test, overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, was conducted Thursday at North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, which was used to test rocket technologies, including rocket engines and launch vehicles, official KCNA news agency reported on Friday.
Experts say that given the engine’s thrust capability, the test is aimed at developing a new solid-fuel ICBM, which the North said is “the first of its kind” in the country.
North Korea has been working to build more solid-fuel missiles that are more stable and can be launched with almost no warning or preparation time.
“Compared to liquid-propellant weapons, solid-fuel missiles are more mobile, quicker to launch, and easier to conceal and deploy during a conflict,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Once deployed, the technology would make North Korea’s nuclear forces more versatile, more survivable and more dangerous.”
Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in South Korea, said the latest test signals North Korea’s push to build more powerful ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
“We cannot rule out the possibility that the North will test-launch an ICBM with a new solid-fuel missile next year,” Lim said.
The development of a solid-fuel ICBM was part of the North’s five military tasks, which were rolled out at its most important party meeting last year.
After overseeing the test, Kim said that “another important problem in the implementation of the five priority tasks” was successfully resolved, and expressed “expectation that another novel strategic weapon will be produced in the shortest possible time,” according to KCNA.
In one of the photos released by KCNA, Kim could be seen smiling with a cigarette in hand while a large plume of smoke was visible behind him.
North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year, including an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland despite international bans and sanctions.
A new report from the US-based Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) says commercial satellite imagery shows the construction of what appears to be a horizontal engine test bed, describing it as the “first of its kind” at the Sohae station, boosting the facility’s capabilities.
“We are concerned about North Korea’s media report and are monitoring its activities,” said an official with South Korea’s unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs.
The latest test comes as International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi is in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, during which he pledged a comprehensive effort to halt North Korea’s nuclear program.
During his meeting with Grossi, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed concern about North Korea’s “race” to advance its nuclear and missile programs and called for the UN agency’s cooperation to deter Pyongyang from further provocations.
South Korean and US officials said the North has completed preparations for a possible nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/16/north-korea-tests-new-engine-for-icbm/ North Korea tests new engine for ICBM