Tokyo — North Korea has tested the engine mechanism for a long-range intercontinental missile that might be able to hit major cities on the West Coast of the United States, according to accounts published Tuesday in the South Korean press.
A previously unknown missile launch site on the west coast of North Korea was identified last week by Jane's Defense Weekly, which cited commercial satellite images. The facility has a mobile launch pad and a 10-story tower that would support the North's largest ballistic missiles, Jane's reported.
Appearing before a parliamentary committee in Seoul on Thursday, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said the launch site is about 80 percent complete. His remarks added to the growing body of information about the site that has come in recent media reports from Jane's, the South Korean news agency Yonhap and the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
If accurate, these report indicate that while North Korea has pursued on-again, off-again negotiations with the United States and five other countries over abandoning its nuclear weapons program, it has continued to work on a long-range ballistic missile development - and is diverting scarce government resources from a collapsing economy that is chronically short of food.