BEIJING, China - Even as America’s new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson trudged through Asia over the last few days, warning North Korea of military action at every stop - North Korea was busy preparing for a revolutionary breakthrough that it claimed today.
The Kim Jong Un-led regime, on Saturday, conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine that the country’s leader said was a “revolutionary breakthrough for the country's space program.”
According to the North Korea state media, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the leader of the reclusive nation attended Saturday's test at the Sohae launch site, adding that the test was intended to confirm the "new type" of engine's thrust power and gauge the reliability of its control system and structural safety.
Jong Un, deflecting all the blows coming his way, called the test "a great event of historic significance" for the country's indigenous rocket industry.
He further declared that the "whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries" - claiming that the test marks what will be known as the "March 18 revolution" in the development of the country's rocket industry.
KCNA even noted that the "Korean-style" engine was developed by the Academy of the National Defense Science.
The KCNA report further indicated that the engine would be used for North Korea's space and satellite-launching programme.
Officials in Pyongyang have said that they intend to launch more Earth observation satellites as part of their five-year plan.
Further, this, reports noted would be a major technological victory for the country in the form of its first geostationary communications satellite.
Previously, the country has claimed that it is trying to build a viable space programme that would include a moon launch within the next 10 years.
However, even as its program enhances, North continues to face the strict ban placed against it by the United Nations, that prohibits the country from conducting long-range missile tests.
Even though Pyongyang continues to defy the ban and sanctions, by pacing ahead in its nuclear program, the country has however argued that its satellite program is for peaceful use.
The test by North Korea came the same day that Tillerson warned that tensions with North Korea have reached a “dangerous level.”
On Sunday, in the last leg of his maiden visit to Asia as Secretary of State, Tillerson met Chinese president Xi Jinping and both pledged to work to strengthen a relationship strained by disputes over North Korea and trade.
Jinping and Tillerson met merely hours after North Korea’s provocative rocket engine trial and a day after Trump renewed his accusation on Twitter, that China was not doing enough to control Pyongyang, its neighbour and historic ally.
Tillerson, however, told Jinping that "we know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a ... strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation.”
On Saturday, China urged the United States to soften its saber rattling against North Korea and not to abandon diplomacy.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi even called for a “cool-headed” approach to the situation.
Yi reportedly said, “No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement. We hope all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a coolheaded and comprehensive fashion, and arrive at a wise decision.”
Earlier, in what came as one of the clearest signal so far from the Trump administration on its North Korea strategy, Tillerson had said that “all options are on the table” to deter the threat from Pyongyang.
Tillerson ruled out diplomatic talks - leaving the door open to military action, in what is bound to fuel fears in the region that the Trump administration is seriously considering a confrontational approach in dealing with the Kim Jong Un-led regime.
Pyongyang meanwhile has been critical of the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint exercise just south of the Demilitarised Zone and the installation of the THAAD anti-missile system.
Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, reportedly reaching within 200 kilometres (120 miles) of Japan's shoreline.