North Korea tests suspected submarine missile

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea Saturday launched a suspected ballistic missile designed to be launched from a submarine, the South Korean military said, apparently continuing a provocative series of weapons demonstrations that could culminate in a nuclear test in the coming weeks or months.

South KoreaThe Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch took place from waters near the eastern port city of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard building submarines, but did not immediately say how far the missile has flown. It was also unclear whether the launch would involve a real submarine or an underwater test rig.

JapanThe Ministry of Defense also confirmed the launch, but did not immediately release the flight details.

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The launch was apparently North Korea’s first demonstration of a ballistic system fired from a submarine since October last year, when it launched a new short-range missile from the 8.24 Yongung – its only known submarine capable of firing. a missile – in what was its first underwater test launch since 2019.

The launch occurred three days after South Korean and Japanese militaries detected the North launch of a suspected ballistic missile near its capital, Pyongyang, on Wednesday, and three days before South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol took office. , which has promised to take a tougher approach than the nuclear ambitions of the North.

FILE – In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech during a military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the North Korean army at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 25. 2022. (Korean Central News Agency / Korean News Service via AP, file)
(Korean Central News Agency / Korean News Service via AP, file)

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The latest launch was likely North Korea’s 15th round of missile launches this year, including its first test of an ICBM since 2017 which demonstrated potential range to reach the entire U.S. mainland. .

Experts say the unusually fast pace of testing underlines a risk aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of ​​the North as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions. There are also signs that North Korea is restoring tunnels at a nuclear test field, where it conducted its sixth and final nuclear test in September 2017, in possible preparations for another explosive test.

People watch a news program showing a file image of a North Korean rocket launch, at the train station in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday, March 20, 2022. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon)

People watch a news program showing a file image of a North Korean rocket launch, at the train station in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday, March 20, 2022. (AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon)
(AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un punctuated its missile tests with warning statements that the North could proactively use its nuclear weapons if threatened or provoked, which experts say could portend an escalating nuclear doctrine that would create greater concern for South Korea and Japan.

The North Korean dictator threatens to upgrade the nuclear arsenal during the military parade

Kim made one such statement during an April 25 military parade in Pyongyang, where he fired his ICBMs and what appeared to be a new type of missile designed to be launched from submarines.

North Korea pushed hard to acquire the ability to launch nuclear missiles from submarines, which would theoretically strengthen its deterrent by ensuring a survivability to retaliate after absorbing a nuclear attack on the ground.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, a huge North Korean flag is displayed during a celebration of the nation's 73rd anniversary at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Thursday, September 9, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service via AP)

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, a huge North Korean flag is displayed during a celebration of the nation’s 73rd anniversary at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, early Thursday, September 9, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency / Korea News Service via AP)
(Korean Central News Agency / Korean News Service via AP)

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

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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 much more time, resources and major technological improvements to build at least several submarines that could safely travel the seas and carry out attacks reliably.

The South Korean and Japanese militaries said the North Korean missile fired on Wednesday traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles) at a maximum altitude of 800 kilometers (500 miles). North Korean state media have yet to comment on that test.

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