WASHINGTON – North Korea on Wednesday conducted another test of a rocket engine that could potentially be used on a future intercontinental ballistic missile, Fox News reported Thursday, quoting two U.S. officials.
A similar report was also carried by Reuters, quoting a U.S. official as saying the test, the latest in a series of engine and missile tests conducted by the country this year, could be for the smallest stage of an ICBM rocket engine.
Another U.S. official confirmed the test, but did not provide details such as the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the country’s ICBM program.
North Korea has accelerated the pace of nuclear tests and missile launches in its pursuit of a nuclear-tipped ICBM that could strike as far as the U.S. mainland.
In March, North Korea claimed it successfully tested a new high-thrust engine for development of a long-range ballistic missile.
The engine test at that time was carried out at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri, northwestern North Korea, according to its official media.
Although military experts believe North Korea could still be years away from acquiring a reliable ICBM capability, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said earlier this month that Pyongyang “is poised to conduct its first ICBM test in 2017.”
Last month, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said that if left on its current trajectory, North Korea will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the U.S. homeland.
“While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable,” Stewart told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 23.
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