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Capacity needed to preemptively strike N.K. submarine’s undersea attacks

Capacity needed to preemptively strike N.K. submarine’s undersea attacks

Posted April. 25, 2016 07:12,   

Updated April. 25, 2016 07:18


North Korea fired one submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in waters off northeast of Shinpo in North Hamkyong Province in the East Sea about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The missile disappeared from the South Korean military’s radar screen after flying about 30 kilometers. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was leading on-site guidance and inspection of the test firing, threatened South Korea by saying, “We have now secured capacity to stab with a dagger destroying the enemy in the back of South Korea or the U.S. imperialists any time we want.” While emphasizing that the North’s missile failed to reach a flying distance of 300 kilometers, an SLBM’s minimum range, the South Korean military raised concern that Pyongyang will be able to deploy to combat mission an SLBM earlier than expected.

The North claimed the test fire to be a great success by saying, “All technical indicators have adequately met requirements to enable us to independently conduct underwater attack operations.” Analysts say the North may have acquired "cold launch" technique with which to blast off an SLBM from underwater. The North has made significant technological advance when compared with the first test launch in December last year, which ended in failure. An anonymous source in Washington also told CNN that the North’s SLBM capability has been developed to a serious level from the level of a mere joke.

The South should be wary of the fact the North fired an SLBM at a time when its fifth nuclear test is believed to be imminent ahead of its Workers’ Party congress on May 7. The North conducted a surprise test by taking advantage of the situation wherein South Korea and the U.S. have mobilized all of their joint surveillance capacities to monitor the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri in North Hamkyong Province. If the North succeeds in development of SLBM, Pyongyang will be equipped with capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack by using a submarine that sneaks into rear area waters of the South Korean territory. Even if Seoul and Washington deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula, the South could come under SLBM attacks hopelessly. Against this backdrop, the South should introduce a nuclear submarine to be able to preemptively attack the North’s SLBM.

The North has deployed more than 300 units of 122-mm multi rocket launchers that are capable of striking Seoul and the greater Seoul region over the past two years. The rocket launchers are conventional weapons, but are threatening nonetheless, because the South lacks proper deterrence. If international sanctions fail to lead Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear weapons, South Korea could ultimately face a situation wherein it must take a decisive military action. The South Korean government and military must urgently secure strategic means that could fundamentally bring an end to the North’s nuclear threat. If we are to enlighten Kim Jong Un from his irrational dream revealed in a speech to the U.N. by North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, who said the North will smile ultimately, the South has no other choice but to arm itself with self-defense capability that is completely dominant over Pyongyang.

한기흥기자 eligius@donga.com