South Korea is monitoring the movements of North Korea’s new submarines as recent evidence shows Pyongyang could be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff public affairs chief Kim Joon-rak said Monday at a regular press briefing that North Korea appears to be upgrading its submarines.
“Currently, the U.S.-South Korea intelligence authorities are closely tracking and monitoring related trends,” Kim said, according to Newsis.
South Korea could be increasingly concerned about a potential North Korean missile test after evidence of activity was captured on commercial satellite imagery.
U.S. analysts Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha said in a report published to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ site Beyond Parallel last week that North Korea had placed a “cylindrical object on the submersible missile test barge at Nampo” shipyard.
“This object could be a launch tube for an SLBM, but this cannot be confirmed yet based on available imagery,” the analysts said.
“The North Korean leader has made clear his desires to perfect long-range ballistic missile capabilities to reach the United States. An operational SLBM capability would enhance the survivability of their nuclear deterrent.”
Last month North Korea fired short-range missiles, defying warnings from Washington and Seoul.
U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities have said it is likely North Korea completed the construction of a 3,000-ton submarine at Sinpo Shipyard. The submarine was on display during Kim Jong Un’s visit to the shipyard in July 2019, South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo reported Monday.
The 3,000-ton modified Romeo-class submarine can carry up to three SLBMs.Shin Jong-woo, secretary general of the Korea Defense and Security Forum in the South, said North Korea is likely to test-launch a new SLBM in the East Sea. Pyongyang could then test the weapon at Nampo Shipyard, to demonstrate improvements in missile range, Shin said, according to the Dong-A. SOVEREIGNPH