Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo confirmed Tuesday that North Korea tested a rocket engine in what the regime called a "very important test" at its western satellite launching station over the weekend, calling on the communist country to stop such military acts.
Jeong's remark, made in Sydney after a meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries, represented the first time that a government official has confirmed what the North tested Saturday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, better known as the Dongchang-ri site.
Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)
"The defense ministers of South Korea and Australia expressed deep concern over North Korea's engine test in its Dongchang-ri areas and successive firings of ballistic missiles," Jeong said in his opening remarks during a joint press conference after the "two plus two talks" with Australia, according to a text of his remarks provided by the ministry.
"(We) also urge North Korea to immediately stop such activities that heighten military tensions, and to meet efforts by South Korea and the United States, as well as the international community, to resolve issues through dialogue," he added.
Reporting the test on Sunday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency did not elaborate on details, and the defense ministry and military authorities here have simply said analysis is under way into what it tested.
But military sources and experts have said the North was believed to have tested a new high-thrust engine using liquid fuel with a goal to launch bigger, more powerful rockets for satellites or intercontinental ballistic missiles, as South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that nothing has been fired from the site and recent satellite imagery shows signs of a missile engine test there.
Under UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea is banned from conducting tests that could be used to build ballistic missiles. Seoul and Washington have viewed North Korean satellite launches as cover for accumulating technology for long-range missiles.
The engine test is the latest in a series of the North's military acts amid stalled denuclearization talks with the US. So far this year, the communist country has conducted a total of 13 major weapons tests such as new types of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
It is feared to take more such provocative moves as the year-end deadline that Pyongyang set for Washington to come up with new proposals to move their talks forward is drawing near.
"The (foreign and defense ministers') meeting will advance cooperation on key regional security and economic issues, and reinforce Australia's ongoing support for permanent peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, including the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea," the Australian government said in its statement. (Yonhap)