North Korea has conducted another rocket engine test within the last 24 hours, U.S. officials told Reuters late Thursday night. Officials say the engine could be part of the nation’s ongoing efforts to build an intercontinental ballistic missile (IBCM) capable of reaching the U.S. mainland or, in the meantime, U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan. This month’s test is the first of its kind since North Korea conducted three rocket engine tests in March. The nation has also ramped up its testing of ballistic missiles, the latest of which occurred on June 8, in repeated violation of UN sanctions.
Of equal concern to the U.S. are reports that North Korea has resumed activity at its underground nuclear test site. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on China, North Korea’s only major ally, to “exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure” on North Korea to curtail its nuclear and missile tests. While China has been historically reluctant to stand up to North Korea, the Trump administration has often identified China as a critical intermediary.
“Countries around the world and in the UN Security Council are joining in this effort, and we hope China will do their part as well,” Tillerson said Wednesday. A day earlier, President Trump seemed less optimistic about relying on Chinese pressure, tweeting: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi [and] China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Multiple administration officials have since expressed their uncertainty over what Trump meant.