Images Suggest N. Korea Tested Long-Range Rocket Engine

Global Security Newswire Staff
September 23, 2013

Recently taken surveillance satellite photographs suggest that North Korea in late August tested an engine for one of its long-range rockets, according to a Monday analysis by the expert website 38 North.

The belief that a new test was carried out at the Dongchang-ri missile launch complex is predicated upon a number of factors "including the presence of a probable rocket stage, a crane necessary to mount and remove the rocket engine and propellant tanks on the test stand, instrumentation used to monitor tests as well as changes in the appearance of vegetation in front of the flame trench [from green to brown] and instead the flame trench," reads the analysis by image expert Nick Hansen.

38 North said it could not determine which type of engine was tested. North Korea is developing several different kinds of rockets, including the Unha 3 that can be adapted to act as ICBMs. The country carried out its first successful long-range rocket launch last December, clearing an important hurdle in the march toward a credible intercontinental-ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a Friday forum in Washington insisted Pyongyang is "ready to come back to" a September 2005 joint statement with the United States, which would commit North Korea to gradually shuttering its nuclear-weapons programs in exchange for phased infusions of foreign economic assistance and international security guarantees, Kyodo News reported. He said his country also is prepared to return to a February 2012 agreement with Washington in which Pyongyang agreed to implement a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing and the enrichment of uranium in return for U.S. food assistance.

Beijing has been pushing for a return to formal aid-for-denuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang. However, other participants in the frozen six-nation process -- namely South Korea, the United States and Japan -- have said they do not see any point in holding new talks right now as North Korea has not shown any willingness to stop its nuclear weapons development.

Onetime head U.S. nuclear negotiator to North Korea, Christopher Hill, in an interview with the Yonhap News Agency said even though the North has not shown any interest in stopping its nuclear activities, the United States has no other choice but to engage with Pyongyang.

Separately, China on Monday published a 236-page list of names of "dual-use technologies" that it will not sell to North Korea as they could potentially be adapted for use developing weapons of mass destruction, Reuters reported. The list contains a number of dangerous pathogens such as Ebola as well as products that might be used to construct and fuel atomic reactors.