North Korea Suspected of Recently Testing Strategic-Missile Engine

North Korea's Dongchang-ri missile complex, as seen by commercial satellite in December 2012. An expert analysis of recent surveillance images of the site indicates that at least one engine test of a strategic missile took place within roughly the last month.
North Korea's Dongchang-ri missile complex, as seen by commercial satellite in December 2012. An expert analysis of recent surveillance images of the site indicates that at least one engine test of a strategic missile took place within roughly the last month. (AP Photo/GeoEye)

North Korea appears in recent weeks to have tested the engine for its new road-mobile strategic missile, according to a Thursday image analysis.

At least one engine assessment of the KN-08 missile likely took place between late March and early April at the Dongchang-ri rocket site, said image expert Nick Hansen in his report for the expert website 38 North. The conclusion is based on sightings of the arrival and subsequent removal of missile stages and fuel containers at the complex, in addition to markings inside the flame trench that would indicate the firing-up of an engine has occurred.

Pyongyang has yet to test the KN-08, but the missile is believed to be designed with intercontinental flight capabilities.

To date, three engine tests of the road-mobile strategic weapon have occurred, according to 38 North. "As this effort progresses, the next technically logical step in the missile's development would be a flight test of the entire system," wrote Hansen.

Meanwhile, construction work is assessed to be ongoing on the upper platforms of a Dongchang-ri tower previously used to launch a North Korean space rocket. "Since construction is still not complete, a [space launch vehicle] firing from this facility is unlikely, probably until early summer," Hansen concluded.

Though the Kim Jong Un regime claims its space launches are peaceful, the international community traditionally condemns them as a violation of U.N. Security Council rules that prohibit North Korea from using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission earlier this week hinted at plans to carry out a rocket launch aimed at developing "a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles."

In response to the high level of activity at the missile launch site, as well as evident ongoing preparations for a fourth underground nuclear explosion at the Punggye-ri test site, South Korea and the United States have stepped up their monitoring of the North and warned that new punishments would follow if there are any provocations.

On Friday, official North Korean media announced that Kim had appointed his adviser, Hwang Pyong So, to the position of head of the Korean People's Army's General Political Department -- a position that is seen as the most powerful military post in the North, Reuters reported.

May 2, 2014
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North Korea appears in recent weeks to have tested the engine for its new road-mobile strategic missile, according to a Thursday image analysis.

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