North Korea conducts ‘crucial test’ at Sohae launch site: KCNA

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea has conducted another “crucial test” at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media reported, as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled with a deadline approaching.

The announcement last Saturday comes one day before United States (US) Special Envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun arrive in Seoul for a three-day visit, and after the US tested a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday.

North Korea’s Chief of the General Staff Pak Jon Chon said his country was using recent tests to develop new technologies and strategic weapons.

In a case of “acute confrontation”, the US “and other hostile forces will spend the year-end in peace only when they hold off any words and deeds rattling us”, he said in a statement carried by the government news agency KCNA.

“The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests … will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon … for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the US,” he said.

An image showing North Korea’s missile launch is displayed at the Unification Observation Post in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea. PHOTO: AP

A spokesman for the North’s National Academy of Defence Science said in a statement carried by KCNA, “Another crucial test was successfully conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground from 22:41 to 22:48 on December 13.”

The “research successes” will be “applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent” of North Korea, the spokesman added.

The statement did not provide further details on the test.

The US State Department said only that it had “seen the reports of a test, and are coordinating closely with our Korean and Japanese allies.”

Sohae, on North Korea’s northwest coast, is ostensibly a facility designed for putting satellites into orbit.

But Pyongyang has carried out several rocket launches there that were condemned by the US and others as disguised long-range ballistic missile tests.

The North is banned from firing ballistic missiles under United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions, and rocket engines can be easily repurposed for use in missiles.