New activity suggesting North Korea might be preparing to resume engine combustion tests has been spotted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea amid a ratcheting up in rhetoric from the U.S. and North Korea in recent months. North Korea experts say resuming engine combustion tests at the facility the North has claimed it dismantled is a move intended to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Satellite imagery captured by U.S.-based satellite imaging company Planet Labs on Thursday (local time) showed new activity at the Tongchang-ri missile launch site, including a large container put on an engine test stand at the facility, CNN reported. Dr. Jeffry Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said after analyzing the satellite image that the large container was not in the satellite images captured five days ago and the presence of the container suggests that North Korea is moving towards restarting engine testing.
CNN quoted Dr. Lewis as saying that engine testing is less provocative than missile and satellite launches but is a serious step toward the launching of more dangerous weapons. Earlier on Saturday, Voice of America reported that movements of vehicles and equipment were spotted near the satellite launching station in Tongchang-ri.