"North Korea is continuing its activities to sophisticate its missile capability," a rep for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says, and the latest report from CNN seems to back that up. It cites two unnamed defense officials in reporting that North Korea performed another test of a ballistic missile engine Friday; that follows a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine earlier this month, which Kim Jong Un called "a great event of historic significance." Few details are known about the latest test, and it isn't clear if the same device and technology were used in both tests, reports Yonhap News. One official tells CNN that early indications suggest the engine, perhaps with a few modifications, could be used as part of an "eventual" intercontinental ballistic missile—which could be capable of reaching the US.
With American F-35Bs taking part in military exercises in South Korea, a Pentagon rep adds the US is committed to defending South Korea and Japan "against any North Korean aggression." Members of the ruling party's security committee in Japan, meanwhile, are discussing how it might respond to a possible North Korean strike. Per its post-war constitution, Japan can only take a defense position, not an offensive one, and that's created a problem, says the head of that committee. "It’s legally possible for Japan to strike an enemy base that’s launching a missile at us, but we don’t have the equipment or the capability," he tells the Washington Post. "I'd like to encourage the party to have this discussion and am keeping an eye on how it's going," says Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Read more North Korea stories.)