N Korea’s SLBM threat looms large

13-Apr-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Speculation is mounting over North Korea’s possible test launch of a ballistic missile from a newly manufactured submarine, according to local defense experts, Sunday, as suspicious activity has been detected at a shipyard that has facilities for testing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

The conjecture is further fueled by Pyongyang’s preparations to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung ? the current leader’s grandfather ? Thursday as the country has often showcased its newly developed weapons around a public holiday in the past.

The speculation comes after satellite images from Washington-based think tanks Stimson Centre’s 38 North and the centre for Strategic and International Studies’ Beyond Parallel showed North Korea has repositioned a submersible missile test barge, possibly indicating an upcoming SLBM test.

In addition, South Korean and US intelligence authorities believe that the construction of a 3,000-tonne submarine which the North unveiled in July 2019 has been completed, based on various signals information including that related to movement at North Korea’s Sinpo Shipyard.

Defense experts said Pyongyang could intentionally unveil the launch of the new submarine, not only to escalate regional tensions to gain an advantageous position in any denuclearisation negotiations with Washington, but also as a message to strengthen solidarity among North Koreans.

Moon Sung-mook, a senior researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it was likely that the North Korea would publicly launch the submarine as it was already unveiled two years ago. He said putting the new submarine into action would show that North Korea has succeeded in strengthening its military capabilities, as it is believed to be able to carry three SLBMs.

“The development of SLBMs by North Korea could be a game changer in the regional security situation of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said, adding that North Korea’s continuing to strengthen its submarine capabilities could ultimately lead to development of a nuclear-powered submarine.

“The fact that North Korea is developing larger-sized submarines mean that its capabilities are being strengthened and the next step would be loading a nuclear-propelled engine systems on such submarines,” Moon said.

Shin Jong-woo, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said, “Rather than severing all existing ties with the United States and sending the whole negotiation process back to the starting point, North Korea would want to escalate tension to a certain level while not crossing any red line by firing medium or long range ballistic missiles.”

“It is likely that North Korea will publicly launch its new submarine as this is an effective way to showcase its military capabilities without actually firing a missile,” he added.

 

Category: Korea

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