North Korea has fired at least one ballistic missile into the sea, with the South Korean military describing it as a weapon likely designed for submarine-based launches.
- The missile may have been fired from a submarine or a submerged test barge
- The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command judged that it did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies.
- Japan said North Korea may have fired two ballistic missiles
The South’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that it spotted the north firing a short-range ballistic missile believed to be a submarine-based ballistic missile (SLBM) and that the South Korean and US military carefully analyzed the launch.
The missile was fired around 10:17 a.m. local time Tuesday from the sea near Sinpo, the joint chiefs of staff said.
It was not immediately clear whether the missile was fired from a submarine or from a submerged test barge, as in most previous tests.
The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command condemned the launch as destabilizing, but assessed that it did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies.
“The United States condemns these actions and calls on North Korea to refrain from further destabilizing actions,” it said, using an abbreviation of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The missile flew about 430-450 kilometers to a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers, a military source said.
North Korea’s last SLBM test was in October 2019, when a Pukguksong 3 missile was fired from an underwater platform flying 450 kilometers to a maximum altitude of 910 kilometers.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said his country’s first analysis suggests the North fired two ballistic missiles.
Japan’s Coast Guard issued maritime security advice to ships, but did not immediately know where the alleged missiles landed.
The shipyard in Sinpo is a major defense industry hub, with North Korea focusing its submarine production.
In recent years, the North has also used Sinpo to develop ballistic weapon systems designed to be fired from submarines.
Analysts had expected the Nordic region to resume testing of such weapons after it rolled out at least two new SLBMs during military parades in 2020 and 2021.
There have also been signs that the North is trying to build a larger submarine that would be able to carry and fire more missiles.
South Korean officials held a National Security Council meeting and expressed “deep regret” over the launch, which came despite efforts to revive diplomacy.
Japan’s Deputy Chief of Staff Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said Tokyo had lodged a “strong protest” with North Korea through the “usual channels”, that is, their embassies in Beijing. Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations.
North and South Korea restored hotlines cut off by the north in June earlier this month.
After ending a month-long stalemate in September, North Korea has intensified its arms tests, while making conditional peace offers to Seoul and reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to try to get what it wants from the United States.
The launch came hours after the United States confirmed an offer to resume diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Last month, South Korea successfully tested an SLBM and became the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. North Korea test-fired a missile fired from a train the same day.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles because he wants a more nuclear-destroying survivability capable of blackmailing his neighbors and the United States,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University of Seoul.
He added that North Korea “cannot politically afford to appear to be falling behind in a regional arms race” with its southern neighbor.
“North Korea’s SLBM is probably far from operationally deployed with a nuclear warhead,” he added.
ABC / wires