The test lasted from 22:41 to 22:48 local time, the statement said, in what NK News, an online news service based in Seoul, said could be a reference to a rocket-engine test, similar to the one that experts concluded had been carried out six days before.
“The research successes being registered by us in defense science one after another recently will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science said in a statement.
The explicit linkage of the test to North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal marks another escalation in Pyongyang’s rhetoric as it threatens to withdraw from dialogue with the United States and potentially renege on a pledge to stop testing nuclear weapons and inter-continental ballistic missiles.
It has threatened to deliver an unwelcome “Christmas gift” to the United States, something experts say could mean an ICBM test, a satellite launch or simply a formal decision to break off denuclearization talks with Washington.
Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, will arrive in Seoul on Sunday for a three-day visit aimed at keeping the dialogue with Pyongyang alive, South Korea’s foreign ministry announced Friday. He will then travel to Tokyo to meet Japanese officials.
On Thursday, North Korea’s foreign ministry issued another angry denunciation of the United States, and especially of Washington’s criticism of its weapons tests at the United Nations Security Council.
“If bolstering of military capabilities for self-defense should be termed an act of destroying global peace and security, there comes the conclusion that all the steps taken by other countries for bolstering up their defense capabilities should be taken issue with,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.
“Such claims that they are entitled to launch ICBMs any time and we are not allowed to conduct the tests done by any other countries just sheds light on the nature of the bandit-like U.S. which seeks to disarm us completely.”