North Korea fires submarine-launched missile: state media

Friday, 04 Oct, 2019

The request was made Thursday after North Korea announced the successful launch of a new SLBM a day earlier, AFP and Reuters quoted diplomats as saying.

The missile test came shortly after North Korea announced planned working-level talks on October 5 with U.S. negotiators - the first substantive sit-down since the February breakdown at the Hanoi summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea said Thursday it had successfully test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the sea to contain external threats and bolster self-defence, ahead of fresh nuclear talks with the United States.

But North Korea followed the announcement by launching what appeared to be two ballistic missiles off its eastern coast yesterday, with Japan saying one may have landed in the waters of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

An estimated 70 other submarines in the North's arsenal only have launch tubes for torpedoes, not missiles.

The North Korean team's reported departure came a day after Pyongyang test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, by far the most provocative such launch since it started a dialogue with Washington in 2018.

An image provided by a North Korean news agency shows an underwater-launched ballistic missile.

The US state department responded to the test by calling on Pyongyang to "refrain from provocations" and "remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations" aimed at bringing denuclearisation.

But being launched from a submarine can make missiles harder to detect, and allows them to get closer to other targets. U.S. President Donald J. Trump had not commented on the missile test at the time of this writing, but Trump waved aside Kim's spate of 11 missile tests between May and September, describing his new suite of short-range missile systems as "very standard".

The threat of a submarine-launched ballistic missile grows exponentially with the range of the submarine.

"The launch of a ballistic missile is yet another violation of UN Security Council resolutions", his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

There are still a lot of problems on the way towards peace between North and South Korea, but "the U.S. president's ability to make extraordinary moves deserves credit". North Korea's 1990s vintage Romeo-class submarines are thought to be able to travel 7,000 km, or about the distance to the United States territory of Hawaii. A North Korean nuclear submarine fleet would also complicate any USA war plans to neutralize Pyongyang's arsenal in a pre-emptive strike.

Lee Ho-ryung, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said North Korea has been developing its submarine capacity for a while, so such a launch would not be a surprise. It is expected the two sides will discuss denuclearization issues, the resolution of which Pyongyang has said is contingent on reciprocal actions by Washington.