North Korea leader orders production of more rocket engines, warhead tips
North Korea’s leader has ordered the production of more rocket warheads and engines, shortly after the United States suggested that its threats of military action and sanctions were having an impact on Pyongyang’s behavior.
Inspecting the country’s Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, which develops missiles, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un instructed the workers at the plant to “produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips,” state media reported Wednesday.
Kim said he wanted a further expansion of the “engine production process and the production capacity of rocket warhead tips and engine jets by carbon/carbon compound material.”
Photos show new solid-fuel missile design
The North Korean state news agency also released photos that appeared to show the designs of one or possibly two new missiles that had not been seen before.
One of the photos showed a diagram for a missile called “Pukguksong-3,” which appeared to be the latest in its series.
“The Pukguksong-3 is definitely new,” said Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies.
The diagram suggested that the Pukguksong-3 might be designed to fly farther and to be launched from protective canisters, which allow missiles to be transported more easily and makes them more difficult to locate and destroy in advance.
Duitsman said the other missile was likely either a Hwasong-13 or Hwasong-11, which is another type of intercontinental ballistic missile.
Pyongyang successfully tested the submarine-launched Pukguksong-1 in August last year and test-fired the land-based Pukguksong-2 in February this year. Both missiles are believed to have intermediate ranges.
Kim’s recent order followed weeks of tensions between Pyongyang and Washington and coincided with an annual joint drill being carried out by US and South Korean forces on the Korean Peninsula.
During the war games, which began on Monday and will run through the end of this month, computer simulations of a possible war on the peninsula are being conducted.
Trump believes Kim ‘respecting’ US
The order also came shortly after US President Donald Trump suggested that his earlier tough talk on North Korea had resulted in Kim’s respecting the US.
“But, Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us,” Trump said on Tuesday. “I respect that fact very much. Respect that fact.”
Earlier, and in the midst of a heated war of words with North Korea, Trump had threatened Pyongyang with American “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Later still, he said the US military was “locked and loaded” for a possible invasion of North Korea.
But, believing that his harsh rhetoric had borne results, he seemed to tone down the war of words in his Tuesday remarks, only to face Kim’s order to accelerate the missile program.
“And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about,” he said.
Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had also said on Tuesday that Pyongyang had been showing restraint and that a path would open to dialog “in the near future” as a result.
That same day, the US slapped sanctions on 16 Chinese and Russian individuals and companies, accusing them of involvement in business with North Korea that helped the country advance its nuclear and missile programs.
Earlier this month, a US-drafted sanctions resolution had been adopted by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea.
Tillerson said there had been “no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea” since the resolution was ratified. He said that that could signal “restraint.”