North Korea tests missile from a submarine

SEOUL – North Korea has in-flight tested a ballistic missile that was likely launched by a submarine on Saturday, the South Korean military said, continuing a provocative series of weapons demonstrations that could culminate in a nuclear test in the coming weeks or months.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch was from waters near the eastern port city of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard that builds submarines. It said the short-range missile flew 600 kilometers (372 miles) at a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers (37 miles), but did not immediately release details about the submarine that would have been involved in the launch.

South Korean and US intelligence officials analyzed the launch, the military said, describing it as a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a “serious threatening act affecting international peace and stability.”


Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in response to the missile launch, ordered officials to prepare for any “unforeseen situations” and to ensure the safety of planes and ships. There were no immediate reports of damage. South Korea’s national security director Suh Hoon and other senior officials during an emergency National Security Council meeting condemned the launch and urged North Korea to return to long-stalled talks aimed at defusing the nuclear standoff, the Seoul presidential office said.

It was apparently North Korea’s first demonstration of a submarine-launched ballistic missile system since October last year, when it launched a new short-range missile from the 8.24 Yongung — its only known missile-launching submarine. The October underwater launch was the first in the north in two years.


On Wednesday, the South Korean and Japanese military spotted a suspected ballistic missile fired from near the capital Pyongyang. Both exercises come Tuesday ahead of the inauguration of South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has vowed to crack down on the North’s nuclear ambitions.

Yoon’s office said in a statement that his government will seek “actual deterrence capabilities” against the North’s nuclear and missile threat, but did not specify how. Yoon has pledged to strengthen South Korea’s defenses in conjunction with its alliance with the United States, which he says would include improving missile defense capabilities.

North Korea has fired missiles 15 times so far this year. That includes the country’s first test with an ICBM since 2017 in March, which showed a potential range to reach the entire US mainland.

North Korea has clearly taken advantage of a favorable environment to advance its weapons program, with the UN Security Council divided and virtually paralyzed over Russia’s war on Ukraine. The unusually rapid pace of testing activity underscores a risky stance aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of ​​the North as a nuclear power and lifting crippling sanctions, experts say.


There are also signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear test site where it conducted its sixth and final nuclear test in September 2017 in preparation for another explosives test. Analysts say the North could use another nuclear test to claim it can now build small nuclear warheads for its growing supply of short-range weapons that threaten South Korea and Japan, or plant a bomb pile on a multi-warhead ICBM.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has punctuated his recent missile tests with statements warning that the North could use its nuclear weapons proactively if threatened or provoked. Experts say such rhetoric may point to an escalating nuclear doctrine that would cause South Korea and Japan greater concern.

Kim made one of those statements during an April 25 parade in Pyongyang, where he presented the most notable weapons in his military nuclear program, including ICBMs and what appeared to be a new type of missile designed to be launched from submarines that are larger could than previous models.


“[North Korea’s]submarine technology is probably not yet capable of staying at sea for long periods of time while avoiding detection. But the ability to launch ballistic missiles from a submarine would further complicate missions to neutralize and counter North Korea’s nuclear forces,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

He said the Kim regime appears to be preparing to test a miniaturized nuclear device that it can use to arm its submarine-launched or tactical missiles and multiple warheads on its ICBMs.

North Korea has been pushing hard to gain the ability to launch nuclear-armed missiles from submarines, which would theoretically bolster its deterrence by ensuring retaliatory action after repelling a nuclear attack on land.

Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to the North’s growing collection of solid fuel weapons fired from land vehicles being developed with the apparent aim of overpowering missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan.


The North has in recent years developed and tested a family of missiles called Pukguksong, designed to be launched from submarines or land vehicles. However, experts say the heavily sanctioned nation would need significantly more time, resources and major technological upgrades to build at least several submarines that could sail quietly and conduct attacks reliably.

The South Korean and Japanese military said the North Korean missile launched on Wednesday traveled a distance of about 500 kilometers (310 miles) at a maximum altitude of 800 kilometers (500 miles). North Korean state media have not yet commented on this test.

___ Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to the report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. North Korea tests missile from a submarine

Joel McCord

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