SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea tested an engine for its new long-range missiles one day before its third nuclear test last week, government sources here said Sunday.
Pyongyang carried out a function test of the engine for its long-range "KN-08" missiles on the Dongchang-ri launch site in North Pyongan Province on Monday, according to multiple government sources.
It was one day before the communist country defied international warnings by detonating what it calls a miniaturized atomic device, drawing a chorus of worldwide condemnations and prompting the United Nations Security Council to start work on "appropriate measures" against the North's latest provocation. The North also conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
"It appears that North Korea conducted the engine test aimed at extending the range of the KN-08 missile to over 5,000 kilometers," said a source. He declined to be identified.
"If the North decides the test successful, it is expected to operationally deploy the new long-range rocket," he added.
North Korea unveiled six units of the mobile missile last April to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, its founding father and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. Experts assumed that the missile measuring 2 meters in diameter and 18 meters in length could carry a nuclear warhead, while the North has yet to conduct a test-firing.
"What deserves attention is that the North carried out the engine test despite being aware of the fact that the U.S. surveillance satellite would detect the move," said another source.
"The engine test right before its third nuclear test would be intended to intensify its threat to the U.S. and its allies," he added.
North Korea has been making good on its threat to the international community following its nuclear test, warning that it is ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and can acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles "to counter hostile forces and bolster its self-defense capabilities."
Seoul has been keeping close tabs on the possibility that the North may launch the long-range rocket if the U.N. Security Council slaps tougher sanctions on the North for its latest atomic test, according to military officials.
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