May 11, 2015 09:40
North Korea test-fired a new ballistic missile from a submarine last Friday. South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies judged the test successful.
There are worries that once the missile is successfully developed, it would pose a great threat to South Korea's missile defense.
The North launched the missile from the vertical launch tube of a new 2,000-ton submarine from waters in the East Sea near Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province. It reportedly flew about 200 m and fell back into the water.
The North has tested vertical launches of missiles in various locations since 2013 -- on the ground first, then at sea, then in the water.
"The North is developing the submarine-launched ballistic missile faster than intelligence agencies expected," a military source here said. "It seems that it is speeding up efforts to complete it before the 70th anniversary of the Workers Party in October."
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency on Saturday quoted the regime's leader Kim Jong-un as uttering cryptic approval. "The attack submarine's launch of a ballistic missile is tantamount to the launch of a satellite," he said.
KCNA also published a picture of the missile coming out of the water. It bears the inscription "Pukkuksong-1."
The missile looks similar to the Musudan missile, a copy of the old Soviet Union's SS-N-6 SLBM but is shorter and carries a different type of warhead. The missile launched Friday was reportedly a dummy with some fuel but without a proper warhead.
South Korean authorities are worried that the North's new missile technology could render useless Seoul's plans to intercept missiles fired from the North, because the North could now infiltrate South Korean waters.
The South plans to spend astronomical amounts of money to boost its missile defense -- W8.7 trillion for five years from 2016 until 2020 and again nearly W20 trillion until the mid-2020s.
"If the North succeeds in developing the SLBM, it'll be a game changer for its nuclear strategy," speculated Park Hwi-rak of Kookmin University. "Seoul will have to share the information on the North's SLBM development closely with Washington and Tokyo based on the information sharing agreement they signed last year."
Meanwhile, the North has reportedly boosted cyber warfare personnel by 900 in about eight months, putting the total number at 1,700 hackers and 5,100 support staff.
The North has also reportedly installed weather vanes and deployed more antiaircraft guns in the western and central frontline areas to prevent propaganda balloons being sent from the South.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com