The U.S.-Korea Institute at The Johns Hopkins University
says new photographs show that North Korea is testing large rocket engines for use in ballistic missiles. Satellite imagery shows at least two tests were conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, one as recently as mid-September.
According to the institute's report
, the tests appear to have been for the first stage of a liquid-fueled engine and that construction at the facility might indicate that Pyongyang is preparing for more tests and launches of larger rockets.
The news comes as diplomatic efforts regarding North Korea's missile program appear to be on hold, following elections in the United States and pending elections in South Korea.
Robert Gallucci, former U.S. envoy for proliferation on ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, told VOA's Korean Service that there is little time to waste after South Korea's elections.
"The first thing to do above all else is to get into a very deep, serious discussion in Seoul. Nothing good comes from this issue, if there is daylight between Seoul and Washington," he said.
Gallucci says the United States must also reach out to Japan and, particularly China.
"Try to bring the Chinese along with whatever approach we are going to make in the North, so that we are comfortable with it. And I think they do understand that reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula is profoundly in their interests as well," he said.
Gallucci warns that getting Pyongyang back to the negotiating table is most important.
"The issue really is that, at its base, that the United States and North Korea are going to have to do some business," he said. "It's possible that a strategy could involve a North-South conversation before a conversation between the North and the United States. Lots of modalities are possible. I wouldn't be wedded to anything."
Meanwhile, many analysts expect Pyongyang to continue demonstrate it military power. Last month, North Korea said it had rockets capable of striking the continental United States -- a claim widely dismissed by most experts. Although Pyongyang appears to be developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, tests have not been successful.