Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) – North Korea tested a ballistic missile that was fired from a submarine on Saturday, South Korea’s military said, continuing a provocative streak in weapons demonstrations. Which could end with a nuclear test in the coming weeks or months.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch took place from water near the eastern port city of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard submarine. It said the short-range missile flew at a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers (37 mi) to a range of 600 kilometers (372 mi), but it did not immediately provide details about the submarine that would have been involved in the launch.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it made a statement that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or the region or its allies, but it highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illegal weapons program. America’s commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains on iron.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobu Kishi told reporters that the missile fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there was no damage to aircraft or ships.
Seoul’s presidential office said South Korea’s Director of National Security Suh Hoon and other senior officials condemned the launch during an emergency meeting and called for a return to long-stalled talks aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with North Korea. requested.
This was apparently North Korea’s first demonstration of a submarine-launched ballistic missile system. Since October last year, when it fired a new short-range missile from the 8.24 Yongang – its only known submarine capable of launching the missile. The October underwater launch was North’s first in two years.
On Wednesday, South Korean and Japanese forces detected a suspected ballistic missile fired near the capital Pyongyang. Both exercises come ahead of the inauguration on Tuesday of South Korea’s newly-elected President Eun Suk Yeol, who has vowed to take a tough stand on the North’s nuclear ambitions.
Yoon’s office said in a statement that his government would pursue “real deterrence” against the North’s nuclear and missile threat, but did not specify how. Yoon has vowed to strengthen South Korea’s defense with his alliance with the United States, which he said would include increasing missile striking capabilities.
So far this year, North Korea has fired missiles 15 times. These include the country’s first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 in March, which demonstrated the potential range of reaching the entirety of the US mainland.
North Korea is clearly exploiting a favorable environment to advance its weapons program, with the United Nations Security Council divided and effectively paralyzed over Russia’s war on Ukraine. Experts say the unusually fast pace of testing activity underscores a shortcoming aimed at forcing the United States to accept the North’s idea of a nuclear power and lift severe sanctions.
There are also indications that North Korea is restoring tunnels at a nuclear test ground where it conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017, in possible preparation for another explosive test. Analysts say North Korea could use another nuclear test to claim that it can now make smaller nuclear weapons for South Korea and Japan for its wide range of short-range weapons, or a multiple -The fighter can put a bunch of bombs on the ICBM.
Jalina Porter, the US State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, said during a briefing on Friday that the United States’ assessment is that North Korea may be ready to conduct a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri test site earlier this month.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ended his recent missile tests with statements warning that the North may actively use its nuclear weapons If threatened or provoked. Experts say such rhetoric likely reflects a growing nuclear doctrine that will cause more concern for South Korea and Japan.
Kim made a statement during the April 25 parade in Pyongyang, where he demonstrated the most notable weapons in his military nuclear program, including ICBMs and a new type of missile designed to be fired from submarines that could be larger than previous models.
“(North Korea’s) submarine technology probably lacks being able to stay at sea for extended periods while avoiding detection. But the ability to launch ballistic missiles from a submarine would further complicate the mission of neutralizing and defending North Korea’s nuclear forces,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Seoul’s Ewa Women’s University.
He said the Kim regime appears to be preparing to test a small nuclear device that it could use for its submarine-launched or strategic missiles and multiple warheads on its ICBMs.
North Korea is working hard to gain the ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from submarines, which would theoretically strengthen its deterrence by ensuring retaliation after absorbing a nuclear strike on the ground.
Ballistic missile submarines will also add a new maritime threat to North Korea’s growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from land vehicles, which are being developed with the aim of dismantling missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan.
North has in recent years been developing and testing a family of missiles called Pukguxong, which are designed to be fired from submarines or land vehicles. Yet experts say the heavily sanctioned nation will need significantly more time, resources and major technological improvements to build at least several submarines that can travel quietly at sea and attack reliably.
South Korean and Japanese forces said the North Korean missile fired on Wednesday covered a range of about 500 kilometers (310 miles) at a maximum altitude of 800 kilometers (500 miles). North Korean state media have yet to comment on that test.