North claims successful rocket test
With only a few details and no independent confirmation of what happened, there’s the usual skepticism. But if even only part of the long list of nuclear and missile work that the North has boasted of successfully completing since its fourth nuclear test in January is true, Pyongyang would seem to be barreling ahead toward its goal of nuclear-armed long-range missiles.
The claim Saturday of a successful ground test of an intercontinental ballistic rocket engine, if true, would be another big step forward for young leader Kim Jong-un. But South Korean officials say North Korea doesn’t yet have a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile, let alone the ability to arm it with a nuclear warhead.
The problem, as always, is that nothing has come close to checking North Korea’s advance. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled for years, and round after round of tough U.N. sanctions have done little to halt the North’s nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches, both of which are crucial to developing a nuclear missile arsenal.
The engine test, announced by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, follows last month’s launch of a medium-range ballistic missile that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit any ballistic activities by North Korea. It was the North’s first medium-range missile launch since early 2014.
North Korea has also threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul and fired short-range missiles and artillery into the sea.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner called on North Korea to “refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations.”