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(LEAD) N. Korea says it has conducted 'very important test' at satellite launching site

North Korea 11:11 December 08, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS details from 4th para; REPLACES para 3 with KCNA's English version)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Sunday that it has conducted a "very important test" at its western satellite launching site, saying that the test's results will alter its "strategic position" going forward.

The claim came days after news reports that the North's Sohae satellite launching station, also known as Donchang-ri site, had shown signs that could suggest the communist nation is preparing for a missile engine test.

The site has been used to launch satellite-carrying long-range rockets. Sunday's claim could mean that the North successfully tested a new rocket engine that could be used in the future launch of a new long-range rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"A very important test took place at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground on the afternoon of December 7, 2019," the North said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), adding the Academy of National Defense Science reported the "result of the successful test" to the Workers' Party.

"The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future," the statement added, referring to the North by its official name.

KCNA, however, did not provide further details, including what was tested.

The test came as Pyongyang has ramped up its demand for Washington to come up with new acceptable proposals before the end of this year to move stalled denuclearization talks forward.

Pyongyang has hinted it could lift its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles tests unless the U.S. meets the year-end deadline set by its leader Kim.

The North last conducted a nuclear test in September 2017 and an ICBM test in December 2017, though it recently carried out a series of short-term ballistic missile and projectile firings.

Nuclear talks have been stalled since the summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in February broke down as they remained far apart over how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with Washington's sanctions relief and other concessions.

In April, leader Kim demanded Washington come up with acceptable proposals in their denuclearization negotiations before the end of this year. He said that he could take a "new way" if Washington fails to do so.

Last week, the North reiterated that the deadline is drawing closer, saying that it is "entirely" up to the U.S. what "Christmas gift" it wants to get, putting pressure on Washington to take first action in making concessions.

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