"Very important" missile test reported by North Korea

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"Very important" missile test reported by North Korea

North Korea announced Sunday it conducted a “very important” test from a missile station Saturday that it claimed will change the country’s strategic position “in the near future.”

The test, announced by a spokesman for the North’s Academy of National Defense Science, the institution responsible for its missile program, may involve the motor for a long-range missile, possibly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

For days, South Korean and American officials and experts had warned of possible missile related activities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground at Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, citing an increase in the movement of vehicles in the area.

It has been a practice of the North to conduct a test on the thrust power of an engine prior to a long-range missile test. In March 2017, the regime conducted an engine test for an ICBM before test launching its first ICBM – the Hwasong-14 – in July that year. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s personal supervised that test.

According to the spokesman, the Academy of National Defense Science reported the “successful result” of Saturday’s test to the Central Committee of the North’s Workers’ Party, which is scheduled to hold a plenary meeting later this month.

While Pyongyang had declared for weeks it would take drastic action if its year-end deadline for denuclearization negotiations was not met – with a foreign ministry official ominously claiming a “Christmas gift” was in store for U.S. President Donald Trump – the test at Sohae could represent a major escalation that could see the regime conducting an ICBM test later this month.

On Saturday, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song said denuclearization was off the negotiation table and that lengthy talks were no longer necessary with the United States.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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