- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

North Korea conducted an engine test of its long-range missile last week in a sign the communist government was continuing development of the Taepodong missile after agreeing last year to limit flight tests.
U.S. intelligence officials said the ground test was the first major development in the long-range-missile program since North Koreans conducted the surprise first flight test of the Taepodong-1 in August 1998.
"It's unclear why they conducted the test," said one intelligence official. "It could have been to test the capabilities of the existing engine, or there could have been other, unknown reasons."
Other officials said the engine test is another sign of the growing anti-U.S. posture of the Pyongyang government, which has sharply increased its verbal attacks on the United States over the past several months.
Official statements from North Korea have said the government would resume missile testing and development in response to U.S. plans to develop missile defenses — a key defense priority of the Bush administration.
The engine firing was detected at a testing facility near the town of Taepodong on North Korea's northeastern coast, officials told The Washington Times on condition of anonymity.
The effects of the engine test — a large burn area — were photographed by U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft, said officials familiar with intelligence reports of the test.
North Korea is working on a longer-range missile known as the Taepodong-2, which will be able to hit Alaska and Hawaii with a nuclear, chemical or biological warhead, said defense and intelligence officials.
Some officials said the engine test could be related to Taepodong-2 development.
The ground test does not appear to violate North Korea's announcement last year that it will not conduct flight tests while it holds discussions with the United States on its missile program.
The engine test came less than a month after the Bush administration announced it would resume talks on the program with the isolated North Korean government.
The decision to continue the Clinton administration policy of engagement with North Korea followed a policy review by the Bush national security team. The policy calls for pursuing negotiations on missiles and a 1994 nuclear agreement that was supposed to have frozen North Korea's nuclear arms program.
Critics of the engagement policy, including many in Congress, have said it was tantamount to appeasement of the communist government.
The engine test coincided with a summit last weekend between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who discussed U.S. missile-defense plans and other topics at Camp David.
North Korea's state-controlled official press said last week that the proposed resumption of talks with the United States was an excuse to learn the missile program secrets of North Korea, formally called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
"As far as the U.S.-touted issue of 'missile verification' is concerned, it is aimed at sifting through the DPRK's national defense industry and military bases," the Rodong Shinmun newspaper said. "The DPRK has no intention to beg for a dialogue with its bullet-proof jacket stripped off."
Mr. Bush said earlier this year he would insist on "verification" of any agreement with North Korea on limits to its missile program.
North Korea's official Central News Agency reported yesterday that the United States had increased military surveillance of the country.
A U.S. U-2 reconnaissance jet flew over Korea on Friday in what the news agency said was "aerial espionage." Earlier last month, several RC-135 surveillance aircraft "committed espionage on strategic targets," the news agency said.
In September 1999, the Clinton administration agreed to lift some economic sanctions against North Korea in exchange for a pledge by the Pyongyang government to freeze long-range missile tests.
North Korea reaffirmed the flight-test ban in June 2000.
However, North Korea has threatened to continue flight tests of its missiles in response to U.S. development of a national missile-defense system.
A Pentagon report made public in September said "progress" in North Korea's ballistic missile development program is a sign that "it remain a top priority" of the communist government.
"Pyongyang is developing multi-stage missiles with the goal of fielding systems capable of striking the continental United States," the report said. "They tested the [1,240-mile] range Taepodong-1 and continue work on the [3,100-mile] Taepodong-2."
Last week's engine test, which involved placing a large rocket booster on its side and firing the engine, occurred at the same missile testing facility where the first flight test originated.
The North Korean government contended that the missile was a space launcher that put a satellite into orbit.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright during her visit to Pyongyang last year that the 1998 Taepodong flight test was a satellite launch and would be the last.
The North Korean leader also sought to reach an agreement with the United States to limit its missile program in exchange for U.S. help in launching satellites.
The deal was close to being concluded at the end of the Clinton administration and was to have involved a visit to North Korea by President Clinton.

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