North Korea has carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media KCNA reported on Sunday, a rocket testing ground that U.S. officials once said Pyongyang had promised to close, Reuters reported.
The reported test comes as a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed nears, warning it could take a “new path” amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.
The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” on Saturday but did not specify what was tested.
South Korea’s defense ministry said South Korea and the United States are cooperating closely in monitoring activities at major North Korean sites including Tongchang-ri, the area where Sohae is located.
Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch, which are usually quickly detected by neighboring South Korea and Japan.
“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.