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N. Korea launches SLBM that can potentially target U.S.

Posted October. 03, 2019 07:16,   

Updated October. 03, 2019 07:16


North Korea launched a projectile highly suspected to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in less than one day following the announcement on the resumption of U.S.-North Korea working-level talks by Choi Sun Hee, the first vice minister of the North’s foreign ministry. This is the first SLBM provocation by the country since its launch of the Pukguksong-1 from the nearby ocean of Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province in August 2016.

The most recent provocation is deemed to have come from North Korea’s strategy to gain more concessions from the U.S. during the two countries’ upcoming working-level talks on Saturday by making surprise nuclear threats that are far more serious than short-range missiles. In addition, it is also interpreted as the country’s opposition to the U.S.’ launch of the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and South Korea’s large-scale display of its kill-chain military power against North Korea, including the F-35A stealth fighter, on its Armed Forces Day.

The South Korean military reported that a ballistic missile launched from the northeastern sea of Wonsan to the east was detected at 7:11 a.m. on Wednesday. The missile is estimated to a Pukguksong-type and traveled approximately 460 kilometers at the highest altitude of 910 kilometers after its launch at a high angle. This is the 11th missile launch by North Korea this year, only 22 days after its last one on September 10. If it had been launched at a normal angle, its range would have been over 2,000 kilometers, which makes it the longest-range missile provocation since the Hwaseong-15 ICBM in November 2017.

The South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae held an urgent National Security Council (NSC) meeting presided by Chung Eui-yong, the head of the National Security Council Standing Committee, at 7:50 a.m. on Tuesday. “We suspect North Korea conducted an SLBM test and plan to conduct detailed analysis in close cooperation with the U.S. intelligence authority,” a government official said. “We express heavy concerns against North Korea’s missile test launch with the resumption of negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. on Saturday. Seoul and Washington will work closely together to analyze the intention and context of the North Korean provocation.”

The South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities believe that the test-launched projectile was the new SLBM Pukguksong-3 to be mounted on the new submarine – estimated to be a 3,000-ton submarine – that was revealed during North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s site visit in July. It is thought that the SLBM was launched from an off-shore barge or the new submarine. The Pukguksong-1 was launched from a Sinpo-class submarine using a cold launch method. “It’s possible that Kim Jong Un observed the launch on the ground,” said a military source.

Gi-Jae Han record@donga.com