North Korea could conduct underwater missile test

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea may soon conduct its first submarine ballistic missile test in about a year, a senior South Korean military official said on Wednesday, amid long-standing nuclear talks between the North. and the United States.

In written remarks to lawmakers ahead of a confirmation hearing, Won In-choul, the candidate for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea, said North Korea was repairing the recent damage caused by the typhoon at its shipyard in northeast Sinpo, a place where it builds submarines.

Shortly after repairs are completed, there is a chance it will perform a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, Won said. He said the South Korean military was closely monitoring developments in that country, according to a copy of his remarks provided by lawmaker Kang Dae-sik.

In recent years, North Korea has made great efforts to acquire the ability to launch missiles from submarines, which experts say is a worrying development as such weapons are difficult to detect before the launch. launch. A test of a submarine-launched missile by North Korea last October was the first of its kind in three years, and the most provocative weapons test since North Korea began nuclear negotiations with the United States. United States in 2018.

Little progress has been made on nuclear talks since the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in early 2019 collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions against North Korea.

Jung Changwook, head of the Korea Private Defense Study Forum in Seoul, said North Korea could conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, test to improve its nuclear attack capability and put pressure on Washington after the US presidential election in early November.

There has been speculation that North Korea could test such a missile before the anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party on October 10. Jung said it was possible, but stressed that North Korea is more about pressuring the United States rather than celebrating its state anniversary.

Some experts say North Korea is unlikely to conduct a major weapons test anytime soon as it grapples with multiple crises, including damage from typhoons, the coronavirus pandemic that led to the closing its border with China – its biggest trading partner – and the harsh United States. directed sanctions.

Foreign experts claim that previous North Korean submarine launched missile tests were carried out from a submersible barge with a single launch tube, not a functioning submarine. In July 2019, North Korean state media reported that Kim had inspected a newly built submarine that observers said appeared to be the most sophisticated model in the North with multiple launch tubes.

Jung said the possible upcoming test would also be carried out from the barge, not the new submarine, so as not to provoke the United States too much.

According to 38 North, a site specializing in North Korean studies, recent satellite images from the Sinpo shipyard show the repositioning or departure of the submersible test barge. He said the location of the barge “could signal an impending SLBM test although such a launch following a destructive typhoon appears unlikely.” He said the barge may have been moved somewhere for repairs.

Jung said a missile fired from the barge would have a potential range of 300 to 500 kilometers (185 to 310 miles), posing no direct threat to the Americas. Despite the deadlocked nuclear talks, North Korea has not carried out nuclear tests or long-range missiles with the apparent aim of preserving the chances of a resumption of diplomacy.

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