Photos show North Korea likely testing more rocket engines
September 23rd, 2013
12:00 AM ET

Photos show North Korea likely testing more rocket engines

By Jamie Crawford

North Korea more than likely tested a long-range rocket engine late last month, according to analysis of new satellite imagery over the site.

In the photos released by 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, indicators of a probable test are seen through the presence of a probable rocket stage, propellant tanks, as well as the appearance of burned vegetation around the launch stand.

The photos were taken between August 25 and 30.

"These are not in and of themselves indicators that there is going to be a rocket test six months from now," Joel Wit, a former North Korea specialist at the State Department who is now with 38 North, told CNN about the photos.

It is not clear from the photos, Wit said, whether the test was for the second stage of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea used in a successful launch test last December, or whether it was a test for a stage of another larger rocket.

The Sohae launch facility, where the latest photos were taken, is the same facility from which North Korea has conducted previous rocket launches, including last December's test.

In recent months, similar satellite imagery has shown what look to be other instances of rocket-engine tests by North Korea, as well as the resumption of production at a previously closed plutonium production site.

North Korea faces a very long list of sanctions for its past provocative behavior that runs from missile launch tests to nuclear tests. Bellicose rhetoric from the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year reached a point where the United States military posture in the Asia Pacific region was adjusted in case hostilities broke out on the divided Korean peninsula.

Those tensions have seemingly simmered in recent months, and a joint industrial park operated by both the North and South recently reopened after the North shuttered it earlier this year.

But analysts like Wit who follow developments in the North say the latest satellite photos show the country is not likely to change it's approach to missile development any time soon.

"These kinds of activities are continuing despite whatever outward posture they have, and people will have to get realistic about it," he said.

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Filed under: North Korea
soundoff (86 Responses)

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  3. tyler

    does anyone think NK will attack

    October 9, 2013 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • Uncle Zacky

      No fat ass

      October 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  4. Peter Wexler

    N. Korea continues to pose a threat. I get the feeling, though, that news agencies are conspiring to move the US to hot war with that country. To that, I say NO!

    September 24, 2013 at 9:24 am | Reply
  5. JCDavis

    So it's now "provocative behavior" to build weapons to defend yourself?

    September 23, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  6. CambodianLegacy

    All of those folks who wishes to 'nuke' the North Korean regime with a nuclear bomb but they themselves don't want other certain nations to have nuclear capabilities. Hypocrites ! 18 year old kid: Lets nuke em already CoD style
    Old wise guy: How do you come to terms with that ? Its all Politics man,Politics, if that is your best interest of your antio9n to bomb North Korea, than its in the North Koreans interests to build their capabilities, than thereafter after its all said and done lets fight and see who wins and the winner will dictate terms...

    September 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  7. Brian

    Why don't we just nuke N.Korea and get it over with?

    September 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Reply
    • Ravi

      Brian Brian Brian ...You wild cat... alas...

      September 24, 2013 at 2:35 am | Reply
  8. Daniel

    Why don't they just have a war and get it over a relief for the rest of the world

    September 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  9. Me

    You guys remember that scene from the Right Stuff where they were testing the first rockets, and it goes up a foot, falls down, and blows up? Then goes up a foot, falls over, and blows up? Then nothing happens but the nosecone flies off?

    These missile tests probably look a whole lot like that...

    September 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • RocketScientist

      Failure is a part of creation and creativity. However, these days that knowledge exists, and now rocketry on that scale is about the ability to manage an enormously complex project.

      September 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • eddie2010

      Laugh all you want, but 10 years after that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, while Mike Collins orbited it.

      September 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
      • Me

        You're comparing the US in the 60's when it was the most prosperous nation in the world with a backwater country that can't even afford to feed or provide electricity for its citizens. There won't be any North Koreans orbiting the Earth as long as that regime stays in power, don't worry...

        September 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  10. Willy

    I think NK would love to have the capability to hit the USA but these are not religious radicals. They would have to gain something from doing such a thing. With these guys money talks.

    September 23, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Reply
    • MadMoto

      So they sell said weapon system to the highest bidder, be it muslim fundamentalist or Mexican Cartel boss.

      September 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Reply
      • Willy

        Yup. Probably.

        September 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Dink_Winkerson

    Help us Obama Wan Kenobi ! You're our only hope! (Man are we in trouble!)

    September 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • churchstate

      Geez, what a Dink

      September 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • TheRipper

      @ Dink_winkerson

      " You're our only hope! (Man are we in trouble!) "

      Yeah, those were the final thoughts of BinLadin as the Navy seals were coming up the steps!

      Grow up tea phagger sore-election loser!!!!!

      September 23, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • MadMoto

        Lovely how liberals keep wanting to claim victory over bin Laden or how Obama is so tough... You realize the entire operation and tactics began under Bush, right?

        So Obama is very good at following the leader... nice.

        September 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • Divebus

        @MadMoto – if you wish to look it up you'll find that the Bush administration stopped looking for Bin Laden. Look up "C.I.A. Closes Unit Focused on Capture of bin Laden" from 2006. But don't let the truth get in the way of a good teabag rant.

        September 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  12. Pliny

    Asia needs a simple, unified policy on NK.

    And it's very simple. Any attack by North Korea is considered as an attack by the People's Republic of China.

    Make Peking pay for the actions of their little commie puppets.

    September 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Good idea. Why don't you go make China pay. The previous occasions your military people tangled with China in the Korea and Vietnam wars got their asses kicked. I am certain you can do better.

      September 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Reply
      • Bill

        Joe......I'm a little confused. If the Chinese kicked our asses, then why isn't it just the DPRK? The ROK still exists, right? Compare casualties between the two countries and it does not support your 'asses kicked' theory. The Chinese had no regards for their infantry and just used human waves to try and push the UN forces back. (Please notice that I pointed out UN and not US)

        Time for you to close your antiquated history book and go to recess.

        September 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  13. citizenUSA

    Might as well just paint a bullseye around Washington, D.C. .

    September 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • Wow

      be very affraid. NK really cares about hitting the US. Now the US government...that's something Americans should truly be affraid of.

      September 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  14. All aboard Doris Closing

    I didn't know our satellite technology could pick out 15-20 guys running around with their hair on fire, because that's the only sure sign that North Korea would be testing a rocket.

    September 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Reply
  15. A Fifth Grader

    to change it's approach should be " its" approach

    September 23, 2013 at 11:21 am | Reply
  16. Dan

    So, what if the photos DO show NK missile tests? Obama isn't going to do anything about and the NK's KNOW IT

    September 23, 2013 at 11:11 am | Reply
  17. Me over here

    CNN is on it's way to extinction. They are scraping. Sites like liveleak to get the latest news. Pathetic!

    September 23, 2013 at 10:57 am | Reply
  18. cwiz

    This looks a lot like the old image...

    September 23, 2013 at 10:49 am | Reply
  19. Scott

    Wait....took them a month to analyze this satellite imagery? I mean, in Syria they could prove in hours Assad had used sarin gas from satellites. or was that just Kerry BSing us, .....again?

    September 23, 2013 at 10:38 am | Reply
    • Technotron

      Yes, if you convert into hours the 4 weeks they waited before deciding to launch an attack... 4 x 7 x 24. You'll need a calculator and its manual for the math

      September 23, 2013 at 11:21 am | Reply
  20. Chris

    Guess old Obama and Kerry are a bit too busy to worry about old business eh? One morning we'll all wake up to the headlines that N. Korea has just launched a nuclear missile at someone, and they demand attention.

    September 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
  21. Bill Rich

    China has announce stopping sales of weapons of mass destruction and parts to DPRK as of September 23, 2013, in compliance with UN decisions. That is, requests for qutation were entertained till September 22. China has also issued statements condemning nations deploying anti-missile defense systems, claiming they will impact preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons, just because China still doesn't have working antimissile systems to deploy.

    September 23, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply
  22. CIA

    The Chinese need to clean up their DPRK mess.

    September 23, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
  23. Tim

    Is the U.S. relying on Johns Hopkins for intelligence now?

    September 23, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • Hiriam Abiff

      But yet if you go to google maps and or click this link the site looks clean. id like to now how updated google maps is, becasue if google maps is current, one of the pics is a ploy to stir us up.

      September 23, 2013 at 9:55 am | Reply
      • vbscript2

        According to the article, these photos were taken about a month ago. Google Maps is almost never that current. It's usually years old.

        September 23, 2013 at 9:59 am |
      • what

        All you have to do is look closer at the google image and you'll see the 2012 watermark. But of course it's more fun to just go on ahead and throw potential conspiracy theories out there based on your known lack of knowledge.

        September 23, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • Francisco

        The US just sent up it's first spy satellite that can take pictures of the world with a high tech camera that is supposed to be able to read a car's license plate. And since that is information that the government told us, that means it can do much more. It can probable take pictures with a resolution good enough to be able to read the words of a novel you are reading in your backyard.

        September 23, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • Scott

        Ummm, the US has had satellites that can read the date on a dime for the last 3 decades. Get with it.

        September 23, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • that is too funny

      exactly what i was thinking, it did not make any less funny though.

      September 23, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
    • TT

      CNN does not speak for US Intelligence, It would be foolish for you to rely in CNN for intelligence information. Need to look else where for it.

      September 23, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  24. The fact of the matter

    "North Korea faces a very long list of sanctions.... " Just DO IT for cryin' out loud.

    September 23, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
  25. jamie

    North Korea has always been a few cookies short of a full tray.

    September 23, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • CIA

      The Chinese need to muzzle their mongrel.

      September 23, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply
  26. Julian Assange

    What would happen if North Korea published American rocket engine tests pictures on the news???
    North Korea developed rocket technology by themselves...
    America's were stolen from the Nazis...

    September 23, 2013 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • Metlman

      Uh, no.

      NK's rocket tech is probably based on tech given to them long ago by the Soviet Union (who, itself got its rocket technology from the Nazis). Actually, all of their equipment is based on pre-collapse Soviet Hardware.

      September 23, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
    • Dave S

      Shut up already
      Someone should just make North Korea extinct

      September 23, 2013 at 9:14 am | Reply
    • The fact of the matter

      "North Korea developed rocket technology by themselves..." LOL. Of course they did.

      September 23, 2013 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • CIA are clueless. The Germans purchased copies of Dr. Robert Goddard's US Patents for 10 cents each. They learned from America. We just stole Von Braun.

      September 23, 2013 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • Bill Rich

      America did not steal from Germany. America robbed them by invasion. Remember the Normandy ? And America shipped out shiploadfuls of designs of rockets, atomic bombs, jet engines, plane designs,plans of steel manufacturing processes, chemical plants, and all scientists and engineers associated with them. All of them takenat gun point. They are called fortunes of war.

      September 23, 2013 at 10:43 am | Reply
      • Metlman

        Yeah, because it certainly would have been better to let the Soviets take it, eh?

        September 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  27. Joshua

    Dennis Rodman can handle this

    September 23, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • CIA

      Yeah...just lay out another rail for him. He'll get right on it!

      September 23, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
  28. Dr Do Little

    Yawn......Come on CNN. Getting bored of your Anti – Iran, China and North Korea rhetoric.

    Do some journalism, stop trying to scare us.

    September 23, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
  29. Random

    If I was an ultra rich guy, above the islamic law, this is what I would do. Ally with key players, IE Iran NK Syria China Russia etc. Keep the CC elements undercover (ie me) and play hot potato. Bounce from country to country exterminating kaffirs at three basic speeds under the guise of protest. You have the starting speed, 25 – 3000 killed a day. The recoil speed, when the world notices 25-99 dead per day, and the one they have yet to use, all out war. You simply stop and send the fighters elsewhere when it gets too hot. Because of the society they live in, it is really easy to control the armies , just martyr the ones you can't control. No one is in uniform any way so you just use the rage against your enemy by misrepresenting who did it. The good dogs , are allowed to grow old , the ones that are easily controlled. But for all this to work you would need a 'promised land' that offered everything you can imagine , like snow sking in a desert. An Icon of the power since the actual generals themselves are hidden (me in this hypothetical), Islam in this case, and a purpose built reward, or promise, dubai.
    It is all a game of hot potato. Eventually it will boil over to a real war , the question is how far the opposing force is degraded to before it does. It is as if syrians were being held hostage to buy time. If you play the long game like this you win if not stopped.

    September 23, 2013 at 7:19 am | Reply
    • SomeThink

      Syria is just a guise to distract Americans from internal problems (primera Obamacare).

      September 23, 2013 at 8:13 am | Reply
      • The Other Bob

        Nice of al-Assad to play along, eh? Now go back to Faux News and play.

        September 23, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  30. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    But... but... How can this be ??
    The "ONE"
    TOLD Kim Jr. NOT to pay with rockets & A bombs anymore !!!

    September 23, 2013 at 6:44 am | Reply
  31. SixDegrees

    Maybe Putin has a solution.

    September 23, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply
  32. Name**

    Do it bro

    September 23, 2013 at 5:54 am | Reply
  33. just wondering

    same oh, same oh...

    September 23, 2013 at 4:32 am | Reply
  34. anitmecho

    Hey Grammer Police, really? You've never made a mistake? Sorry you couldn't find a date tonight.

    September 23, 2013 at 2:50 am | Reply
    • John

      You can't even spell "anti"? And it's always the most pathetically illiterate who feel the most threatened by anyone who calls them on it.

      September 23, 2013 at 2:59 am | Reply
      • just wondering

        why dont you get a grip on reality... pathetic

        September 23, 2013 at 4:33 am |
    • That Bald Dude

      Grammer? Kelsey's in town?

      September 23, 2013 at 3:40 am | Reply
  35. Mecho

    Second-last paragraph: its, not it's. Elementary grammar mistake on a major news site, really?

    September 23, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
    • John

      Says the guy who cannot even construct a simple sentence.

      September 23, 2013 at 2:58 am | Reply
      • Mecho

        Say what you will, I view commenting on the Internet as more akin to the informality of speech than to "proper" sentences. Doesn't negate the fact that I am an officer on the Grammar Police force, spotted a mistake on a major news site and called it out for everyone's benefit.

        September 23, 2013 at 3:48 am |
      • tyler

        none of this will EVER happen

        October 9, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  36. Mizlplix

    Must be running out of news.

    September 23, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply

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