WASHINGTON -- Recent satellite imagery shows indications supporting media reports that North Korea carried out a rocket engine test last week, a website monitoring the communist nation said Tuesday.
Reuters reported, citing an unidentified US official, that the North conducted the engine test on Thursday that could be for the smallest stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile rocket engine.
On Tuesday, 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea analysis, said that commercial satellite imagery taken of the North's Sohae long-range rocket launch site on Thursday last week shows signs the report is correct.
Both natural-color and color-infrared imagery of the vertical engine test stand show numerous tire tracks on the test stand's apron and at the nearby garage that were not present in a June 10 image, indicating recent heavy vehicular traffic similar to that seen for previous engine tests, 38 North said.
"More significantly, the image shows widespread, but minor, damage to vegetation surrounding the base of the test stand where rocket engine exhaust is directed during tests. The minor damage suggests that the recently conducted test was of a relatively small engine," it said.
Still, however, it is difficult to determine from the imagery alone whether the test was for the smallest stage of an ICBM rocket engine, it said.
"The fact that this test was conducted only twelve days after the June 10 image showed no evidence of test preparations reinforces that North Korea possesses the technical and logistical capabilities to conduct such tests with little or no advance warning," 38 North said. (Yonhap)