Incriminating satellite images released Monday suggest that North Korea tested one of its long range rocket engines last month. The launch is believed to have taken place sometime between August 25th and 30th.
The photos were released on a website run by the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University. A crane, rocket stage, propellant tanks and burned vegetation around the launch pad indicate evidence of the launch.
This launch is believed to be a follow up test to last December's notorious rocket launch that left North Korea's neighbors as well as the international community in an uproar because most believed the launch to be a disguised missile launch.
The photos make it hard for analysts to clearly distinguish whether this launch was a second stage launch of the Unha-3 rocket (the one launched last December) or a larger rocket.
As analysts take a closer look at satellite images from preceding months, there is more evidence suggesting that North Korea has tested a few rocket-engines. These images also suggest a previously closed plutonium production site is now operational.
With North Korea's history of volatile behavior and hostile rhetoric, the US found it necessary to place military forces in the Asia Pacific region earlier this year. Though tension between North and South Korea has cooled, analysts say North Korea will continue to antagonize the world community with its production and development of missiles.
"These kinds of activities are continuing despite whatever outward posture they have, and people will have to get realistic about it," former North Korea specialist at the State Department, Joel Wit, told CNN.