Kim orders sub with multiple SLBM launchers

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Kim orders sub with multiple SLBM launchers

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly ordered a new submarine capable of launching multiple ballistic missiles to be completed by 2018, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation, said Japanese media Friday.

Kim ordered the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party to construct a submarine capable of firing two to three SLBMs, or submarine launched ballistic missiles, to be completed by Sept. 9, 2018, reported the Tokyo Shimbun.

North Korea’s current 2,000-ton Sinpo-class submarine can only launch one SLBM from about 10 meters under water and must return to a base to load another missile.

Kim was said to have ordered the construction of the submarine at a banquet attended by scientists and persons of merit on June 22, following Pyongyang’s launch of two Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang is expected to use technology it acquired from researching a Soviet-era Golf-class submarine that it acquired from Russia in 1993.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun also reported that Pyongyang is determined to be developing a 3,000-ton submarine capable of loading three SLBM.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang successfully launched an SLBM in waters off its eastern coastal city of Sinpo, in which a missile flew 500 kilometers (310.6 miles) before falling into waters controlled by Japan.

Experts said the SLBM could have the capability to fly as far as 2,000 kilometers, which would put the U.S. military base in Okinawa in range.

It was its third SLBM launch this year, though the other two were deemed failures.

At the beginning of the week, Seoul and Washington kicked off their annual 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercise, which practices wartime countermeasures in case of an attack by the North, which always leads to heightened inter-Korean tension.

The North Korean media reported Thursday that leader Kim visited SLBM testing sites around 10 times in the process of its development.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim “visited the dangerous launching test sites some 10 times, holding discussions and resolving issues, to achieve that short moment that the ballistic missile flies.” The report went on to express gratitude to Kim, crediting the leader with the success of the SLBM launch.

“Kim Jong-un has the tendency to visit the testing site of new weaponry,” said a South Korean military official. “After he visits a site, at the related unit, complete national support is provided.”

North Korea seems to be putting everything into developing SLBM as its key new asymmetrical military power, pointed out analysts. Taking the report into consideration, Pyongyang is likely to have tested SLBMs over 10 times.

“Nuclear or missile weapons have been developed since [North Korean founder] Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong-il,” Kim Keun-sik, a political science professor at Kyungnam University, said. “SLBMs can become Kim Jong-un’s trademark.”

He continued, “SLBMs are powerful weapons that neighboring countries can react to almost as sensitively to as they do to nuclear weapons, thus the successful launch on Aug. 24 is being turned into Kim Jong-un’s achievement.”

North Korea upgraded security at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, according to 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies that monitors Pyongyang, on Thursday.

North Korea launched a long-range missile in February from this site located in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province. The report said that the upgrades to security, as seen through satellite imagery, could indicate that the facility could soon be occupied by North Korean scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel, and Pyongyang is concerned about being spied on by foreign governments “using defectors from the area or outside agents.”

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG YONG-SOO [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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