On Thursday on the heels of Otto Warmbier’s death North Korea carried out another test of an ICBM rocket engine believed to be part of its nuclear program
(WASHINGTON, DC) The United States assessed that the test, the latest in a series of engine and missile trials this year, could be for the smallest stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rocket engine, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A second U.S. official also confirmed the test but did not provide additional details on the type of rocket component that was being tested or whether it fit into the ICBM program.
One official said he believed the test had taken place within the past 24 hours.
North Korea's state media, which is normally quick to publicize successful missile-related developments, did not carry any reports on the engine test.
South Korean officials did not have details about the reported test and declined to comment on the possible nature of the engine.
The continental United States is around 5,600 miles (9,000 km) from North Korea. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 3,400 miles (5,500 km), but some are designed to travel 6,200 miles (10,000 km) or farther.
This latest test comes on the heels of the death of U.S. university student Otto Warmbier after his brutal captivity in North Korea.
North Korea said on Friday the death of Otto Warmbier soon after his return home was a mystery and dismissed accusations that he had died because of torture and beating during his captivity as "groundless".
The North's foreign ministry spokesman also said in comments carried by the official KCNA agency that Warmbier was "a victim of the policy of strategic patience" of former U.S. President Barack Obama whose government never requested his release.
"The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S. in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well," the spokesman was quoted by KCNA as saying.
U.S. President Donald Trump blamed "the brutality of the North Korean regime" for Warmbier's death and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had advocated dialogue with the North, said Pyongyang had a "heavy responsibility" in the events leading up to the American's death.
The North's spokesman said such accusations are part of a smear campaign to slander the country that had given "medical treatments and care with all sincerity" to a person who was "clearly a criminal".
U.S. doctors who had traveled to the North last week to evacuate Warmbier had recognized that the North had "provided him with medical treatment and brought him back alive whose heart was nearly stopped," the unnamed ministry spokesman said.
"Although Warmbier was a criminal who committed a hostile act against the DPRK, we accepted the repeated requests of the present U.S. administration and, in consideration of his bad health, sent him back home on humanitarian grounds," the spokesman said.
The exact cause of Warmbier's death remains unclear. Officials at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated after his return from the North, declined to provide details, and his family asked the Hamilton County Coroner on Tuesday not to perform an autopsy.