North Korea fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into the East Sea on Tuesday. The missile launch, which was the seventh this year, was carried out on the day when intelligence chiefs and nuclear envoys of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan met in Seoul and Washington, respectively. The latest provocation came amid efforts from South Korea and the U.S. to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table through discussions on end-of-war declaration and humanitarian aid to the North.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Tuesday, an SLBM was launched from waters east of Sinpo at 10:17 a.m. and flew 590 kilometers, hitting an altitude of 60 kilometers. The JCS suspects that a new mini-SLBM, which had never been launched before, was launched from a submarine. “It is likely that an SLBM was fired from an existing submarine since a 3,000-ton submarine newly built at Sinpo shipyard has not been launched yet,” a JCS official said. Last Tuesday, North Korea unveiled a small SLBM for the first time at the Self-Defence-2021 exhibition in Pyongyang.
Unlike the Pukguksong-3 with an estimated flight range of over 2,000 kilometers that was launched from a barge in October 2019, the North’s latest short-range ballistic missile does not target the U.S. mainland. It is a new strategic weapon capable of striking South Korea by carrying tactical nuclear weapons.
During an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, Cheong Wa Dae said it is deeply regrettable that the missile launch took place when active discussions are under way among major countries, including South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean presidential office called SLBM a “short-range ballistic missile” and did not use the term “provocation.”
“The U.S. condemns these actions and calls on North Korea to refrain from any further destabilizing acts,” the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.