North Korea tests rocket engine, possibly for ICBM

Tensions between the USA and North Korea spiked once again last week when American student Otto Warmbier, who was serving a hard labour sentence in Pyongyang for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign, died shortly after returning home in a coma.

North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that the United States believes could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, a USA official told Reuters on Thursday.

A second United States official also confirmed the test but did not provide additional details on the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the ICBM program.

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Rocket engines are easily re-purposed for use in missiles.

North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and missiles at an alarming pace with its stated goal of launching an ICBM capable of hitting the United States mainland.

US officials have warned that North Korea is on the path to successfully developing an ICMB capable of hitting the United States unless something changes.

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The rocket test was allegedly conducted on Wednesday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, where similar tests of the rocket technology took place on three occasions in March. In September 2016, Pyongyang carried out another nuclear test, while more than 20 missiles were test-fired during the year.

The US has also ramped up its military presence in the region, conducting drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defence system in Seoul, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (Thaad).

Moon's office did not disclose the details of the missile being tested, but South Korea has been working to develop ballistic missiles with a range of 800 km (500 miles), a voluntary cap under an agreement with the United States. Intercontinental ballistic missiles have a minimum range of about 5,500km but some are created to travel 10,000km or farther.

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"This test could mean that North Korea has already completed development of the 2nd and third-stage ICBM engines". The previous intercept test, conducted in February, had been successful.

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