North Korea Tests Rocket Engine as U.S. Talks Up Missile Shield

North Korea said it successfully tested an engine for a new intercontinental ballistic rocket that could be used to carry out nuclear strikes on hostile forces, a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea in the face of Chinese opposition.

The trial was a “big success,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said, according to a statement carried by state-controlled Korean Central News Agency. South Korea’s defense ministry confirmed the statement and said it is now closely monitoring the situation.

“We can now equip new type of intercontinental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads and keep the pool of evils including the U.S. mainland within our striking range,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

Carter, who is traveling to Asia next week, said after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the proposed placement of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system in South Korea is “going to happen” even though China opposes the move.

“It’s a necessary thing,” Carter said. “It’s part of protecting our own forces on the Korean Peninsula and protecting South Korea. It has nothing to do with the Chinese.”

He urged the Chinese to work with the U.S. to reduce the North Korean missile threat. Earlier, during his speech, Carter said the U.S. will soon begin to operate F-35 fighters with its South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

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