SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said on Wednesday it had tested a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine, during its first submarine test launch in two years and one it said strengthen the submarine capabilities of its army.
Tuesday’s test was the fifth round of missile launches since September and came as North Korea ramps up pressure on Washington and Seoul to abandon what Pyongyang sees as hostile policies such as joint US military exercises. -Koreans and international sanctions against the North.
Korea’s state-run Central News Agency said the latest test “will go a long way in raising the country’s defense technology to a high standard and improving the underwater operational capability of our navy.” He said the new missile introduced advanced control guidance technologies, including flank mobility and glide jump mobility.
Neighbors to the north said on Tuesday they detected missile fire from the north and said the weapon had landed in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. The South Korean military described the missile as a short-range ballistic missile launched by a submarine and said the launch was carried out from waters near the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a important shipyard for the construction of submarines.
KCNA said Tuesday’s launch was carried out from the “same 8.24 Yongung ship,” a submarine that North Korea said it used to conduct its first strategic ballistic missile test launched by a submarine in 2016. Photos released by North Korea show a missile soaring and spewing bright flames. above a cloud of sea smoke. One image shows the upper parts of what looks like a submarine on the surface of the sea.
North Korea carried out a final SLBM test in October 2019. Foreign experts said the North used a submersible barge, rather than a submarine, for the launch at the time.
Tuesday’s launch was North Korea’s most publicized weapons test since President Joe Biden took office in January. The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it is open to resuming nuclear diplomacy with North Korea âanywhere and anytimeâ without preconditions. The North has so far pushed back such overtures, saying American hostility remains unchanged.
The launch came days before Sung Kim, Biden’s special envoy to North Korea, traveled to Seoul to discuss with his allies the possibility of reviving diplomacy with Pyongyang.
During a meeting in Washington with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Kim stressed the United States’ condemnation of the launch, which violates several UN Security Council resolutions, and urged Pyongyang to refrain from new provocations and to “engage in a sustained and substantial dialogue,” according to the State Department. noted.
The UN Security Council has scheduled emergency closed-door consultations on North Korea on Wednesday afternoon at the request of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the North Korean weapon tested on Tuesday was likely derived from its nuclear-capable KN-23 ground missile whose flight is very maneuverable and lower trajectory gives it a greater chance of evading missile defense systems.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Tuesday that the North Korean missile flew on “an irregular path”, traveling up to 600 kilometers (360 miles).
âAn SLBM is the most intimidating nuclear weapon because we don’t know where it can be fired,â said Moon Keun-sik, a submarine expert who teaches at Kyonggi University in South Korea. “North Korea’s goal is to build more powerful SLBMs that can be fired from large submarines like the United States is doing.”
North Korea has worked for years to acquire the ability to fire nuclear missiles from submarines, the next key piece in an arsenal that includes a variety of weapons, including those with potential range. to reach American soil.
Still, experts say it would take years, vast amounts of resources, and major technological improvements for the heavily sanctioned nation to build at least several submarines that could travel quietly at sea and execute strikes reliably.
North Korea has around 70 to 90 diesel-powered submarines in one of the largest submarine fleets in the world. But they are mostly aging vehicles capable of launching only torpedoes and mines, not missiles. The North Korean ship used in the 2016 SLBM test is the only submarine in the North capable of firing a missile, but it has a single launch tube and some experts call it a test platform, rather than a weapons system operational in active service, Moon said.
In 2019, North Korea unveiled a 2,000-ton-class submarine with several missile launch tubes, but there has been no official confirmation that it has been deployed for operational purposes. North Korea is pushing to build larger submarines, including one nuclear powered.
Kim, the analyst, said the new missile tested on Tuesday was likely a small weapon on display at a defense exhibit last week. The professor said North Korea is likely planning to load this missile onto the submarine it disclosed in 2019 while placing larger SLBMs on larger submarines under development.
In a report released this month on North Korea’s military capabilities, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said the North’s pursuit of submarine-launched ballistic missile capabilities as well as its continued development of land-based long-range mobile weapons highlight Pyongyang’s intentions to “build a means of survival, reliable nuclear delivery capability.”
Some experts say North Korea could continue its weapons tests for a few more months until it stops them due to the Winter Olympics slated for February in China, its last great ally and economic pipeline. They say the North could even test long-range missiles directly threatening the Americas in violation of a 2018 self-imposed moratorium on such weapons testing to maximize its campaign of pressure.
Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have stalled for more than two years amid disagreements over a relaxation of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for denuclearization measures by the North.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.