North’s submarine launch may have succeeded

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North’s submarine launch may have succeeded

The U.S. Defense Department said on Monday that it is still assessing the test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile conducted by North Korea on Saturday, which the South Korean military concluded was a failure shortly after it took place.

“I can’t say at this point exactly how best to characterize it,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said at a regular press briefing in Washington, D.C. “But regardless of exactly what took place, we know already that this was a violation of UN resolutions.

“This was an action that again we condemn, in that their pursuit of ballistic missile nuclear weapons capabilities continues to pose a significant threat to the United States, to our allies in the region and remains obviously a significant concern.”

North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. near the city of Sinpo, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Saturday evening. It was reportedly launched from a 2,000-ton Sinpo-class submarine.

The South Korean military tentatively concluded that the test was a failure. Although the missile was ejected and flew for several minutes, it only flew about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles), far short of the 300-kilometer minimum range of an SLBM.

Nevertheless, the South acknowledged that some technological advancement in the North’s underwater ejection capabilities is evident.

While South Korea believes the North has not perfected the technology to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile from a submarine, North Korea said the test-fire was an “eye-opening success,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday.

On Monday, John Schilling, an analyst for the website 38 North, said in a report that the latest SLBM test suggests a significant development in the North’s solid-fuel missile technology, adding that the test might have been a failure simply because the North used only enough solid fuel for a 30-kilometer flight.

“North Korea has revealed images of a submarine-launched ballistic missile test,” he added, “indicating that it has abandoned the liquid-fuel design that has consistently failed in the past and switched to a more robust solid-propellant system that will have a better chance of actually working in an operational environment.”

The website is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

“The new design is still in the earliest stages of testing,” he continued, “and much work, including development of a full-scale motor, needs to be done.

Nevertheless, the simpler design is likely to be less troublesome to develop and could be ready by 2020.”

BY KIM HYUN-KI [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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