Pyongyang’s military carried out a test at a satellite launch site in order to boost “the reliable nuclear deterrent,” just days ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea to revive denuclearization talks with the US.
A “crucial test” was carried out on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site located in the western part of North Korea, state-run KCNA news agency reported Saturday. Pyongyang usually isn’t too shy to brag about their launches, but this report was light on detail.
It only said that the test was a success, and the outcome of it will be used for “further bolstering… the reliable nuclear deterrent.”
This is the second activity conducted at Sohae in just a week; the previous one took place last Saturday. South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said it was a test of a rocket engine.
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The news from Sohae also triggered rumors of a revival of launch activity at the compound, which Pyongyang partially disassembled in 2018 amid the progressing denuclearization talks with the US.
Two days ago, US monitoring group ‘38 North’ released commercial satellite imagery apparently showing the Sohae facility and suggesting that preparations for a missile launch were underway.
New commercial satellite imagery of #DPRK’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station indicates that activity continues at the Vertical Engine Test Stand, following a reported test conducted on December 7.https://t.co/kRC0tt3qDp— 38 North (@38NorthNK) December 12, 2019
The latest test comes half a month until the year-end deadline that Kim Jong-un set in April for a nuclear deal with the US. Pyongyang threatened to take an unspecified “new path” if Washington fails to soften its stance on denuclearization.
However, there is no indication that the talks will resume anytime soon – instead, both sides began trading veiled threats and verbal attacks.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang promised to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the US, to which Donald Trump responded by calling the North Korean leader ‘Rocket Man’ again. Nevertheless, the exchanges did not reach the level of the threats of “fire and fury” from back in 2017.
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Pyongyang has already signaled its growing frustration over the negotiations stalemate. Denuclearization “is already gone out of the [sic] negotiating table,” UN Ambassador Kim Song said in a statement last week.
As the deadline fast approaches, Washington has dispatched North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun to Seoul where he will “discuss ways to bring substantial progress on achieving a complete denuclearization and enduring peace,” as the South Korean Foreign Ministry put it.
The official will also travel to Tokyo to have a similar conversation with his Japanese counterparts.
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