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International relations

North Korea says it tested 'high-thrust solid-fuel motor'

Pyongyang ready to stage another potential nuclear test, South Korean and U.S. officials say

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a "high-thrust solid-fuel motor" test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Tongchang-ri on Dec. 15. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea has tested a "high-thrust solid-fuel motor," state media reported on Friday, as the isolated country seeks to develop a new strategic weapon and speeds up its nuclear and missile programs.

The test, overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, was conducted on Thursday at North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, the official KCNA news agency said.

The test proved the motor's reliability and stability, providing a "guarantee for the development of another new-type strategic weapon system," KCNA added.

North Korea has been working to build more solid-fuel missiles, which are more stable and can be launched with almost no warning or preparation time.

After overseeing the test, Kim expressed "expectation that another new-type strategic weapon would be made in the shortest span of time," according to KCNA.

North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year, including an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, despite international bans and sanctions.

In March, Kim visited the Sohae site and called for expansion of the facility, which has been used to test various missile technologies, including static rocket engines and space launch vehicles.

The latest test comes as International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi is in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, during which he vowed an all-out effort to stop North Korea's nuclear program.

During his meeting with Grossi, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed concerns over North Korea's "race" to advance its nuclear and missile programs, calling for the U.N. agency's cooperation to deter Pyongyang from further provocations.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said the North has completed preparations for a potential nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017.

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