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Will N. Korea make SLBM provocation around Christmas?

Posted December. 08, 2017 09:07,   

Updated December. 08, 2017 10:22


There are signs indicating that North Korea is preparing to make further provocations with a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) after breaking silence last month with the launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has not fired any SLBM since August 2016. Some analysts say that Pyongyang probably has concentrated all efforts on developing the technology for maximizing its capabilities for striking the United States during the hiatus in SLBM provocation.

“It is true that we have detected a series of signs suggesting that the North is preparing to launch a new SLBM dubbed Pukkungsong-3,” a South Korean government source said Thursday. “Although we cannot say that a test launch is imminent, we are keeping a close watch by using South Korea-U.S. combined surveillance assets because of increased activities.”

Japanese media are also reporting on an imminent SLBM launch. The Tokyo Shimbun reported on Wednesday that the North had already manufactured five Pukkuksong-15 prototypes. When North Korea disclosed photographs showing its leader Kim Jong Un inspecting Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defence Sciences in August, it showed designs for a new SLBM labeled the Pukkuksong-3, hinting that it was focusing on improving its SLBM.

Some analysts raise the possibility that the North will use the U.S. Christmas holiday season as the timing for its new provocations. The SLBM is considered a “game changer” that would enable the North to strike back with a nuclear missile even after the United States strikes the North following Pyongyang’s ICBM attack. If North Korea makes a surprise launch around Christmas, it can significantly intensify Americans’ fear. When the North launched the Hwasong-15 last month, it chose 1 p.m., U.S. Eastern Standard Time, when U.S. citizens are busy doing their daily activities to maximize the shock.

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com · Sung-Ha Joo zsh75@donga.com