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(LEAD) N. Korea says it conducted 'another crucial test' at satellite launch site

16:23 December 14, 2019

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By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Saturday it has carried out "another crucial test" at its satellite launch site and the results will be used to strengthen its "reliable strategic nuclear deterrent."

The unspecified test took place from 10:41 p.m. to 10:48 p.m. on Friday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, better known as the Dongchang-ri site, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

It did not say what was tested.

"The research successes being registered by us in defense science one after another recently will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the KCNA said, referring to the North by its official name, the DPRK.

"Our defense scientists were honored to receive warm congratulations from the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea on the spot," it added.

Friday's test came about a week after the North conducted what it called "a very important test" at the satellite launch site on last Saturday, sparking concern that the communist nation could be preparing to launch a long-range rocket.

South Korea has confirmed that the North tested a rocket engine last week.

(LEAD) N. Korea says it conducted 'another crucial test' at satellite launch site - 1

These tests came as the North has increased pressure on the U.S. to come up with a new proposal in their stalled nuclear talks by the end of the year, strongly suggesting that it could otherwise restart testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

An ICBM launch or a nuclear test would represent a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of next year's presidential election as he has boasted of the North's suspension of such weapons tests as one of his key diplomatic achievements.

Trump has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un not to interfere with his re-election bid, saying the communist nation could lose "everything." The North said in response that the country has nothing more to lose.

The latest test also came a day before U.S. top nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun's planned visit to Seoul in an apparent bid to keep up the dialogue momentum with the North. Speculation is growing that he could visit the inter-Korean border truce village of Panmunjom for possible contact with North Korea.

The North has used the Dongchang-ri site to test rocket engines and launch vehicles to deliver satellites, and such technology could be diverted to develop and launch long-range weapons.

In March 2017, North Korea successfully tested a new high-thrust engine at the station, which was employed to launch ICBMs, such as the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, later that year.

Amid stalled denuclearization talks, North Korea has carried out a series of weapons tests in recent months mostly involving short-range missiles. The latest one took place on Nov. 28, when Pyongyang tested its super-large multiple rocket launcher.



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