SLBM launch may not have used submarineThe U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Thursday that North Korea’s latest missile launch appeared to have come from a sea-based platform, not a submarine.
The comments came after North Korea said it successfully tested a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off its east coast Wednesday.
“We assess that it was a short- to medium-range ballistic missile,” JCS spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters, adding that it flew some 450 kilometers (280 miles) into the East Sea.
“I would say that we have no indication that it was launched from a submarine but rather a sea-based platform,” he said.
South Korea’s military said earlier that the North appeared to have fired an SLBM that flew around 450 kilometers at a maximum altitude of about 910 kilometers. It also said the launch appeared to have come from a sea-based platform.
Experts say the missile could have flown a greater distance had it been fired at a normal angle, not “in vertical mode.”
The launch raised tensions again ahead of the resumption of denuclearization negotiations between the North and the United States in Sweden this weekend.
Submarine-launched missiles are harder to detect than ground-based ones, increasing the threat posed to the United States and its allies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono held a phone call Thursday and discussed the North Korean launch.
Esper and Kono “agreed that the North Korean tests are unnecessarily provocative and do not set the stage for diplomacy and that North Korea should cease these tests,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said at the briefing alongside Ryder.
North Korea’s official newspaper said Friday that this week’s test-firing of an SLBM represents a “grave statement” to hostile forces, calling the weapon a “time bomb” and the “most fearful dagger” for its enemies.
On Thursday, North Korea claimed that its test-firing of a new-type SLBM Pukguksong-3 a day earlier had been successful, adding that it “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat” to the communist state.
It was the North’s 11th weapons test so far this year and the first SLBM test since August 2016. It also came ahead of a resumption of nuclear talks with Washington this weekend, apparently aimed at increasing its negotiating leverage.
“The Pukguksong is not just a demonstration of our conventional weapon but a powerful statement to North Korean people and a grave statement to violent reactionaries bent on turning the flow of history around,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun said.
“The Pukguksong is now looking over hostile forces currently hunkering down in dark caves. It is a time bomb hanging behind their back and the most fearful dagger that will destruct all enemies,” the paper added.
The North’s SLBM program is considered one of the biggest threats to the United States and its allies, as it could extend the range of the North’s nuclear missiles, and such a missile is hard to detect in advance before it emerges from the water.