Pyongyang’s state media said it tested a new high-thrust rocket engine Saturday, a step seen as part of its efforts to build an intercontinental ballistic missile, for which Kim has said a test is in the final stage of preparations.
|US President Donald Trump (Yonhap)|
“He’s acting very very badly,” Trump said of Kim as he departed his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to a White House pool report. The president also said he had meetings about North Korea with administration officials over the weekend.
Trump’s remarks came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his Asia tour consisting of stops in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. During his stay here, he signaled that Washington, which is currently carrying out a North Korea policy review, would take a tougher line, saying all options including military action are “on the table.”
On Friday, Trump also lashed out in a tweet at Pyongyang for “behaving very badly” and “playing” the US for years, while accusing China of having “done little to help.”
Speculation persists that the Kim regime may test-fire the KN-08 or KN-14 ICBM in the first half of this year in a bid to exploit presidential transitions in Seoul and Washington. It has threatened the launch could come “at any time and any place.”
Overseeing the engine test, the young leader said the “whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries,” saying it marks what will be known as the “March 18 revolution” in the development of the country’s rocket industry.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the new model appears to be comprised of a main engine and four auxiliaries, though military and intelligence officials are carrying out a detailed analysis.
“We assess that through the latest test, they have apparently made meaningful progress in engine performance, but a further analysis will be needed to verify the engine’s precise thrust and prospects for its future utility,” deputy ministry spokesman Col. Lee Jin-woo said at a news briefing.
Following Tillerson’s trip, the top nuclear negotiators of South Korea and the US are set to intensify consultations.
Joseph Yun, US special representative for North Korea policy, arrived in Seoul later in the day after visiting Beijing over the weekend to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei. He will hold talks Thursday with Kim Hong-kyun, special representative for the Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the Foreign Ministry here.
With the Trump administration poised to unveil its North Korea roadmap soon, the sides are expected to explore ways to facilitate policy coordination and review the current situation on the peninsula.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)