Yonhap News is reporting that North Korean leader Kim Jung-un presided over a test of a new high-thrust rocket engine (Yonhap). Before going up to the observation platform, Kim inspected the Sohae launch site, giving instructions on the test, KCNA reported. The test was conducted to confirm the technical indices of the new hardware (Yonhap).
Two days prior to the test, 38North released an analysis which pointed to signs that North Korea was preparing for an engine test. There was no activity reported at the launch site (38North).
The new test places Pyongyang closer to conducting a flight test of an ICBM, a goal it has long pursued. It also comes after tough comments were made by American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Seoul, where he said all options, including military preemptive strikes, are on the table.
The test further pushes the envelope of provocative activity under the Trump administration, which, outside of Tillerson’s remarks, has yet to articulate a North Korea strategy. Pyongyang is also ultilizing the political turmoil in Seoul to push closer to an ICBM test without push back from below the 38 parallel.
If there is no response from the Trump administration, in particular from President Trump himself, Pyongyang may conduct more provocative tests to see what it can get away with. The ballistic missile and nuclear programs of North Korea will be an issue Trump will have to face at some point in the near future.