SEOUL, July 11 (Itar-Tass) - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea might have tested a rocket engine this spring in a bid to give a boost to its missile capability, a research center at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland said Thursday.
Analysts at the University’s U.S.-Korea Institute investigated the visual data from satellites and draw a conclusion that the tests of rocket engines had been done at the Sohae Satellite launching facility located close to the country’s western coast.
Experts working for the Institute’s 38 North program say the images made at the end of March and the beginning of April might be indicative of the DPRK’s efforts to develop a long-range missile.
Although the analysts found it difficult to say what particular engines were tested and how many times the testing was done but they say it is quite obvious that the engines have been designed for a large enough rocket.
South Korean news media quoted Nick Hansen, an expert on imagery analysis, as saying the engine tests were "a key part" of efforts to develop long-range missiles.
He said the latest images showed activities including movements of fuel tanks around a launch pad and a seven-car train might be carrying the engine, other equipment and technical specialists to the test site.
The experts said it could not be ruled out that the tests had been part and parcel of an effort to develop the Unha-9 rocket, which could put into orbit a larger satellite.
Pyongyang violated a moratorium on new missile tests as it launched the Unha-3 long-range missile last December. The move invited sharp criticism on the part of the international community.