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N. Korea makes rapid progress in SLBM development

Posted August. 25, 2016 06:55,   

Updated August. 25, 2016 07:31

Despite North Korea’s evolving missile capabilities, South Korea has no effective measures to deal with it. Although North Korea is in a countdown to deploying a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with a range of 2,000 kilometers, the South is mired in controversies over the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, raising concerns over a vacuum in defense against the North Korean nuclear capabilities. Experts say that as the North’s SLBMs are hard to intercept even with the THAAD system, the South could be held a nuclear hostage without extraordinary measures. Critics also say that the South Korean military wasted the “golden time” for seeking the optimal defense by underestimating the North’s SLBM development.

North Korea test-fired an SLBM from waters near the eastern port city of Sinpo at around 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the South Korean military said. The missile flew about 500 kilometers before falling into waters under Japan's air defense identification zone. The South Korean military views that the North tested the missile’s maximum driving force while minimizing violation of Japans’ air defense identification zone. Wednesday’s launch marked the third SLBM launch by the North this year after the ones on April 23 and July 9.

Wednesday’s launch marked the longest flight by such a missile since the North began underwater launching test in January 2015. The missile is believed to have been launched at a steep angle of over 80 degrees, before reaching an altitude of more than 400 kilometers after a stage separation and re-entering the atmosphere (50-100 kilometers in altitude) 10 times faster than the sonic speed. The South Korean military said that if fired at a regular angle, the missile could have flown more than 1,000 kilometers, and 2,000 kilometers if launched with a full tank of solid fuel.

Seoul’s military official said that it was closely analyzing the North’s significant progress in SLBM development. However, the military has reportedly concluded that the North has successfully developed the SLBM and could possibly deploy it to active duty. So far, the South Korean military had projected that it would take three to four years before the actual deployment.

Seoul’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae held a National Security Council meeting early Wednesday morning, taking the North’s SLBM launch seriously. However, the meeting failed to come up with any concrete countermeasures, only reaffirming the principle of “stern responses.”

Following the successes in the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile and the SLBM development, the North has been dashing like a runaway train with its nuclear threats. There are increasing calls in Seoul for a fundamental review of its military responses to the North’s SLBMs carrying nuclear warheads that appear to be a fact.

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