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(2nd LD) N. Korea says it has conducted 'very important test' at satellite launching site

All News 12:04 December 08, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS paras 1-3; ADDS background)
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 the successful testing will play a key role in changing the country's "strategic position" in the near future.

The North did not say what was tested in Saturday's testing. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that nothing has been fired from the North's Sohae satellite launching station, also known as Donchang-ri site, in the country's northwest.

But the North has reportedly shown signs of preparing for a missile engine test at the site recently, and Sunday's claim could mean that the North successfully tested a new rocket engine that could be used in the launch of a new long-range rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"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.

The test came as Pyongyang has ramped up pressure on the United States to meet its demand for a new negotiating proposal by year's end, strongly suggesting that otherwise, it could restart testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

An ICBM launch by the North would represent a setback for U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of next year's presidential election as he has touted the North's suspension of nuclear and ICBM tests as one of his key achievements.

Earlier, in Washington, Trump warned the North not to interfere with his reelection bid.

"I'd be surprised if North Korea acted hostilely," Trump was quoted as telling reporters at the White House. "He knows I have an election coming up. I don't think he wants to interfere with that. But we'll have to see."

The North's U.N. ambassador, Kim Sung, said that denuclearization is off the negotiating table.

"We do not need to have lengthy talks with the U.S. now and denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table," Kim said in a statement issued after Britain and five other European nations condemned the North's "continued testing of ballistic missiles."

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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