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(3rd LD) N. Korea conducts 'another crucial test' at satellite launch site

North Korea 21:16 December 14, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with deputy national security adviser's meeting with U.S. military officials in last para)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Saturday it has successfully carried out "another crucial test" at its satellite launch site in a possible sign of further provocations unless its year-end deadline is met.

North Korea has pressed the U.S. to come up with a new proposal by the year's end, warning that otherwise, it could give up on negotiations with the U.S. and take a "new way."

North Korea did not elaborate on its seven-minute test on Friday night at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, better known as the Dongchang-ri site on the west coast.

The test came six days after North Korea conducted what it called a "very important test" at Dongchang-ri. South Korea has confirmed that the North tested a rocket engine last week.

"The research successes being registered by us in defense science one after another recently will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said, referring to the North by its official name.

(3rd LD) N. Korea conducts 'another crucial test' at satellite launch site - 1

North Korea has increased pressure on the U.S. to come up with a new proposal in their stalled nuclear talks, strongly suggesting that it could restart testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) if none is forthcoming.

The North has recently said that it is entirely up to Washington what "Christmas gift" it wants to get.

An ICBM launch or a nuclear test would represent a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of next year's presidential election as he has boasted of the North's suspension of such weapons tests as one of his key diplomatic achievements.

Trump has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un not to interfere with his re-election bid, saying the communist nation could lose "everything." The North said in response that the country has nothing more to lose.

Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said the North Koreans clearly want the world to believe that these tests at Sohae will improve the range, accuracy and survivability of their long-range missiles.

"This suggests they want the world to recognize their claimed nuclear deterrent rather than cling to the idea of denuclearization," he said in an emailed comment to Yonhap News Agency.

The latest test came two days before U.S. top nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun's planned visit to Seoul in an apparent bid to keep up the dialogue momentum with the North.

Speculation is growing that he could visit the inter-Korean border truce village of Panmunjom for possible contact with North Korea, though it remains to be seen whether such contact will materialize.

The North has used the Dongchang-ri site to test rocket engines and launch vehicles to deliver satellites, and such technology could be diverted to develop and launch long-range weapons.

In March 2017, North Korea successfully tested a new high-thrust engine at the station, which was employed to launch ICBMs, such as the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, later that year.

Amid stalled denuclearization talks, North Korea has carried out a series of weapons tests in recent months mostly involving short-range missiles. The latest one took place on Nov. 28, when Pyongyang tested its super-large multiple rocket launcher.

Separately, South Korea's Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Hyun-chong tweeted on Friday that he held in-depth discussions with U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert Abrams and U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley on the situation on the Korean Peninsula as well as sharing the costs for the upkeep of American troops in South Korea. Kim did not provide details.



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