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North Korea conducts ‘very important test’ amid tensions with US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo taken on April 8, 2012, shows two North Korean soldiers standing guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket at at the Sohae satellite launch station. (By AFP)

North Korea has carried out a “successful test of great significance” at its space launch center, state media say, as tensions ramp up between Washington and Pyongyang over stalled denuclearization talks.

The North’s official news agency KCNA, citing a spokesman at the North Korean Academy of National Defense Science, reported on Sunday that the test had been conducted at the Sohae satellite launch site on the country’s northwest coast.

“A very important test took place at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground on the afternoon of December 7, 2019,” the KCNA said, adding that the result of the latest test would have an “important effect” on changing the “strategic position” of North Korea.

The spokesman did not provide further details on the test.

Missile experts are of the opinion that the reported test was likely a static test of a rocket engine rather than a missile launch, which are usually and quickly detected by neighboring South Korea and Japan.

In late November, Pyongyang successfully tested a super-large multiple launch rocket system, marking the 13th major weapons test the country has conducted this year.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by Pyongyang for Washington to take a “new path” and change its policy of insisting on North Korea’s unilateral denuclearization. Washington has rejected that timeline.

On Saturday, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States, and lengthy talks with Washington were not needed.

“We do not need to have lengthy talks with the US now and denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table,” Kim Song said in a statement.

Kim also added that the “sustained and substantial dialog” sought by the United States was a “time-saving trick” to suit its domestic political agenda, a reference to US President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

North Korea and the US have been involved in on-and-off diplomacy since 2018. While their leaders have met three times, actual negotiations toward demilitarization have snagged.

The North has been under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the United Nations and the US over its nuclear and missile programs. In spite of those sanctions, it has taken several unilateral steps as signs of goodwill in the course of the diplomacy with the US.

Washington has, nevertheless, failed to offer any sanctions relief in return.

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