North Korea may soon launch a ballistic missile from a submarine in its first such test in about a year, a top South Korean military official said Wednesday.
Won In-choul, the nominee for chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Hermit Kingdom has been repairing recent typhoon damage at its northeastern Sinpo shipyard, where it builds submarines.
When the repairs are complete, there is a chance Pyongyang will test a sub-launched missile, Won said, adding that the South Korean military is keeping a close watch, according to a copy of his remarks lawmaker Kang Dae-sik provided to the Associated Press.
The rogue regime has been pushing strongly to acquire the ability to launch missiles from submarines in what experts say is a worrisome development because such weapons are difficult to detect before launch.
The North last conducted an underwater-launched missile test in October 2019, the first of its kind in three years, and the most provocative weapons test since the country entered nuclear negotiations with the US in 2018.
The talks have made little progress since the second summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Vietnam in early 2019 collapsed amid disputes over US-led sanctions against Pyongyang.
Jung Changwook, who heads the private Korea Defense Study Forum in Seoul, said the North could perform a test to upgrade its nuclear attack capability and put pressure on Washington after the Nov. 3 presidential election.
But some experts say it’s unlikely that Pyongyang will conduct any major test soon because it is grappling with several crises, including the typhoon damage, the coronavirus pandemic and US-led sanctions.
According to 38 North, a website that specializes in North Korea studies, recent satellite photos of the Sinpo shipyard show the repositioning or departure of the submersible test barge.
It said the barge’s location “may signal an impending SLBM test though conducting such a launch on the heels of a destructive typhoon seems unlikely.”
The secretive regime hasn’t carried out any recent nuclear or long-range missile tests in an apparent bid to keep chances for a resumption of diplomacy alive.
With Post wires