North Korea on Sunday said it successfully conducted a ground test of a new high-powered engine using "indigenous technology" the day before, the North's latest move to bring it closer to completing a long-range missile that could target the USA mainland, despite strong warnings from the global community.
This indicates it was a new type of rocket engine for long-range missiles.
The test was successfully carried out, KCNA reported. This comes as Malaysia's investigation into the case badly affected relations with North Korea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged in talks yesterday that the two powers would work to strengthen a relationship that has been unsettled by disputes over North Korea and trade.
En route to Beijing, Tillerson visited USA allies Japan and South Korea where he declared Washington would drop the "failed" approach of patient diplomacy with Pyongyang, warning that American military action against the North was "on the table".
The killing of Kim Jong-un's estranged half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport February demonstrates this: Beijing reportedly saw Kim Jong-nam as a possible replacement, but Malaysian authorities believe North Korean operatives engineered his assassination by having young women smear his face with a highly toxic nerve agent.
The United States and China have pledged to work together to get the North to take "a different course" and move away from its weapons programmes after U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson met his Chinese counterpart on Saturday.
North Korea announced the testing of a new rocket engine on March 19, which would be used in missiles such as these pictured in the March 7 edition of North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
In fact, earlier this week, the Pentagon dismissed reports that some elite-troop maneuvers were aimed at "decapitating" the North Korean leadership - though it's not unlikely such stories were read in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrates what the North claims is a successful new engine on Saturday at the Sohae Space Center in Tongchang-ri in North Pyongan Province.
"There is a possibility that the North will provoke other countries by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or launch a satellite soon", the scholar said.
But a fifth missile fired by North Korea failed.
"If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table".