May 11, 2015 13:18
North Korea last week test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, turning another nightmare into reality for South Korea.
North Korea claimed it succeeded in launching the missile from the East Sea near Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looked on.
Military experts believe the missile was carrying a dummy warhead, but North Korea apparently succeeded in getting the underwater missile to ignite as soon as it emerged from the ocean, while the projectile flew around 200 m. This shows the North is in the final stages of developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
The only things left are to test an actual SLBM and to build a 3,000-ton submarine capable of launching it. South Korean and U.S. intelligence apparently spotted signs since last year that the North was developing an SLBM.
Experts said the North tested the missile "sooner than expected." There is a chance that North Korea will complete development of the SLBM within two years. That would mean it can strike South Korean targets from anywhere it pleases and take the nuclear menace to a new level.
Seoul's strategic response to the North Korean missile threat has been focused on land-based weapons. Korea's own missile defense system including the so-called "kill chain," whereby the military can detect signs of an impending missile launch and preemptively destroy it, are not designed to take on SLBMs. Even the U.S.' Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system is only designed to intercept land-based ballistic missiles.
Even these systems are still under development, but before they could even be deployed the North's SLBM has cast grave doubt on their efficacy.
In 2010, North Korea split in half a 3,000-ton Navy corvette using a small submarine and a torpedo. Now it is working around to clock to make a nuclear warhead small enough to be fitted atop a missile. The capability to fire such weapons from submarines would pose a nightmarish threat.
Defense officials met immediately at Cheong Wa Dae as soon as North Korea reported it successfully test-launched the missile. The U.S. State Department blasted the test launch and accused North Korea of violating UN resolutions. But no government official here has yet said what concrete steps are being taken to deal with this threat.
This kind of dithering ended up fueling North Korea's nuclear ambitions. One day it will cost us dearly.
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