Kim Jong-Un
Kim Jong-UnReuters

North Korea tested a powerful new rocket engine, state media said Sunday (local time), according to AFP.

The country’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, hailed the successful test as a "new birth" for the nation's rocket industry.

North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Kim had overseen the operation, and "emphasized that the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries."

Rocket engines are easily re-purposed for use in missiles.

"The development and completion of a new-type high-thrust engine would help consolidate the scientific and technological foundation to match the world-level satellite delivery capability in the field of outer space development," the North Korean news agency reported.

"The leader (Kim) noted that the success made in the current test marked a great event of historic significance as it declared a new birth of the Juche-based rocket industry," it added.

The test comes two weeks after Pyongyang fired ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest coast.

KCNA later claimed the firing was a training exercise for a strike on American bases in Japan, adding that Kim personally supervised the drill.

Several weeks earlier, North Korea tested a ballistic missile from the Banghyon air base in the western province of North Pyongan.

North Korea’s tests are in violation of the sanctions that the UN Security Council has imposed on it.

The Security Council recently condemned North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches and expressed concern over the country's increasingly destabilizing behavior.

Sunday’s test appeared to be timed to coincide with the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Beijing on Saturday, where he warned that regional tensions had reached a "dangerous level".

During the visit, the U.S. and China pledged to work together to address the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program.

On Thursday, Tillerson visited Japan, where he hinted that Washington would take a tougher strategy to confront North Korea's nuclear threat, but also stressed Pyongyang had no need to fear the United States.

The comments came after Pyongyang threatened to launch a series of "merciless" attacks on the U.S. if a U.S. Navy carrier violates its “sovereignty and dignity”.