North Korea said Saturday that it successfully test-fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine in what would be the latest display of the country’s advancing military capabilities. Hours after the announcement, South Korean officials said the North fired three anti-ship cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast.
Experts in Seoul say North Korea’s military demonstrations and hostile rhetoric are attempts at wresting concessions from the United States and South Korea, whose officials have recently talked about the possibility of holding preliminary talks with the North to test its commitment to denuclearization.
For the second straight day, North Korea said it would fire without warning at South Korean naval vessels that it claims have been violating its territorial waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean officials previously had said that North Korea was developing technologies for launching ballistic missiles from underwater, although past tests were believed to have been conducted on platforms built on land or at sea and not from submarines. Security experts say that North Korea acquiring the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be an alarming development because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect before launch than land-based ones.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally directed the submarine test launching and called the missile a “world-level strategic weapon” and an “eye-opening success,” said the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA. The report did not reveal the timing or location of the launch. Kim declared that North Korea now has a weapon capable of “striking and wiping out in any waters the hostile forces infringing upon the sovereignty and dignity of (North Korea).”
South Korea’s defense ministry have previously said that North Korea has about 70 submarines and appears to be mainly imitating Russian designs in its efforts to develop a system for submarine-launched missiles. The North is believed to have obtained several of the Soviet Navy’s retired Golf-class ballistic missile submarines in the mid-1990s.
Uk Yang, a Seoul-based security expert and an adviser to the South Korean military, said it is unlikely that North Korea possesses a submarine large enough to carry and fire multiple missiles. However, it’s hard to deny that Pyongyang is making progress on dangerous weapons technology, he said.