North Korea's Kim Jong Un says engine test is 'new birth' of rocket industry

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its Tongchang-ri rocket launch station and leader Kim Jong Un said the successful test was "a new birth" of its rocket industry, the reclusive North's official media said on Sunday.

The engine would help North Korea achieve world-class satellite launch capability, KCNA said, indicating the test was of a new type of rocket engine for long-range missiles.

The United States and China pledged to work together to get the North to take "a different course" and move away from its weapons programs after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Chinese counterpart on Saturday.

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Inside North Korea's secretive missile program
A missile is carried by a military vehicle during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Engineers check the base of Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
A North Korean scientist looks at a monitor showing the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology on the outskirts of Pyongyang April 11, 2012. North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbours and the West. The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbours such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
North Korean soldiers salute in a military vehicle carrying a missile during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANNIVERSARY)
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A sales assistant watches TV sets broadcasting a news report on North Korea's nuclear test, in Seoul, January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Workers construct a new nuclear reactor in the North Korean village of Kumho in this file photo taken August 7, 2002. The United States urged North Korea December 21, 2002 not to restart a nuclear reactor suspected of being used to make weapons-grade plutonium. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that North Korea had disabled surveillance devices the agency had placed at the five-megawatt Nyongbyong reactor. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won/File Photo LJW/RCS/AA
A passenger walks past a television report on North Korea's nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul February 12, 2013. North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Tuesday, South Korea's defence ministry said, after seismic activity measuring 4.9 magnitude was registered by the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A scientist stands beside the Kwangmyongsong-3 application satellite, to be put onto the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
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North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.

Kim Jong Un has said North Korea is close to a test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

KCNA said the test was carried out at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, where North Korea has conducted long-range rocket tests.

South Korea's military declined to comment.

The Washington-based think tank 38 North said last week satellite imagery indicated activity at the site's vertical engine stand, possibly in preparation for a rocket engine test.

"The rail-mounted environmental shelter has been moved up against the engine test stand since February 5, either for maintenance or to position a rocket engine for testing," 38 North said in a note.

It said North Korea had installed the environmental shelter in late 2015 to conceal detection of test preparations.

KCNA cited leader Kim as saying the significance of the test would soon be evident.

"He noted that the success made in the current test marked a great event of historic significance as it declared a new birth of the Juche-based rocket industry," KCNA said. Juche refers to North Korea's homegrown ideology of self-reliance.

"He emphasized that the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries," it said.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Mary Milliken, James Dalgleish and Paul Tait)

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