N. Korea conducted rocket engine tests in March, April: think tank

SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is suspected of having carried out engine tests in late March and early April that could be a precursor to the development of a long-range rocket, a U.S. think tank said Thursday, citing recent satellite imagery.

According to "38 North," an analysis program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the tests were conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the west coast. It said imagery of the site and supporting equipment, such as fuel tanks and movement of trains, were all tell-tale signs of the tests.

It said there was no way to tell what kind of engines were tested or how many times tests were carried out, but it may likely have been for a large space launch vehicle. The Seohae station is used for launching what the North claims are space rockets, and not missiles.

"One possibility is that the test was part of Pyongyang's efforts to develop the recently announced Unha-9 (rocket) believed to be able to lift slightly heavier satellites into orbit," 38 North said.

It also said that the photos are an indication that the North has continued to upgrade its capabilities in the rocket technology area despite sanctions imposed by the international community.

The country also broke its own moratorium on new launches by firing off of the Unha-3 long-range rocket in December of last year, which triggered an outcry from the international community.

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