North Korea tests rocket engine, possibly for ICBM

Tensions between the U.S. 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.

The officials told Reuters they believed the test could be part of Pyongyang's programme to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile.

USA spy satellites have detected new activity at North Korea's underground nuclear test site that involve some modifications around one of the tunnel entrances to an underground test area, US officials said.

The disclosure of the engine test came a day after the USA pressed China to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to help rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, during a round of high-level talks in Washington.

South Korea said Friday that it is closely monitoring North Korea's missile development in cooperation with the United States amid a news report that the North has conducted another rocket engine test.

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The test follows about a dozen missiles launches this year, as well as three engine tests in March.

One official said he believed the test had taken place within the past 24 hours.

Its state media said on March 19 that it succeeded in testing a high-thrust rocket engine at a missile site near the border with China, indicating it was conducted a day earlier.

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).

China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, told Trump in a meeting at the White House that Beijing was willing to "maintain communication and coordination" with the United States in an effort to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula, according to a statement from China's Foreign Ministry on Friday. Intercontinental ballistic missiles have a minimum range of about 5,500km but some are created to travel 10,000km or farther.

  • Sonia Alvarado