North test fires missile from sub

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North test fires missile from sub

North Korea test fired a ballistic missile launched from under water off the coast of South Hamgyong Province Saturday in an apparent angry reaction to South Korea’s decision to deploy a U.S.-made advanced missile defense system. The test failed.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported Saturday that the North fired a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at around 11:30 a.m. southeast of the coastal city of Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, which ended in failure.

The military concluded that while the missile did come out of a submarine, it failed at an early stage of its flight, exploding at an altitude of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) after flying only a few kilometers.

In order for a SLBM launch to be considered a success, it must fly at least 300 kilometers.

The timing of the SLBM launch - just a day after a joint decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to South Korea to guard against Pyongyang’s missile threats - suggests that it was a display of frustration at the decision, which has also upset Beijing.

China’s annoyance was palpable as its foreign ministry immediately issued a statement Friday criticizing the decision, saying it would undermine China’s security and would not contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang’s pursuit of the sea-based missile system was evidenced in a string of SLBM launches over the past few years. The Saturday launch came after it test-fired another SLBM in April, which also failed.

The South Korean military estimates the North will complete its SLBM tests and deploy the weapon to units in two to three years, which will enhance the country’s pre-emptive strike capability as it is difficult to detect a submarine underwater. The worst-cast scenario would be for the North to master technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on top of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

North Korea carried out six test launches of intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) over a three-month period from April to June in an apparent rush to acquire missile technologies. It is also expected to accelerate its SLBM development by conducting additional sea-based launches.

South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo said Sunday the Thaad system was capable of intercepting SLBMs launched from under water and aimed at the South.

During an appearance on a KBS program, the defense minister said, “Thaad is a missile system designed to intercept short range missiles with 3,000 kilometer range and medium range missiles. Therefore, it can shoot down missiles managed by the North such as scuds, Rodong and Musudans.”

In the case of SLBMs, Han said the South Korean military will detect the preparation of a missile launch underwater in advance and attempt to incapacitate it before it is launched in accordance with an action plan presented by the Navy.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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