November 30, 2015 09:47
North Korea failed to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine into the East Sea on Saturday, government sources here said.
The sources said South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies detected signs of the North conducting an underwater ejection test of a submarine-launched missile in waters near Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province.
An earlier underwater ejection test in May was a success.
"We can't say with certainty whether the test was successful or not, but it seems to have failed because there was no identification of missile in flight," a source said Sunday.
"It's highly likely that the launch was a misfire because fragments of the safety cover were spotted in the water," another source said.
The safety cover is removed right after a missile is ejected out of the water by steam pressure, and the missile engine is ignited before it is launched.
Back in May, the North released images of a missile soaring about 150 m into the sky after its engine was ignited out of the water. Pundits at the time speculated that the North had solved the most difficult problem in the submarine-launched missile development.
It seems the North has repeatedly conducted similar tests.
"More than a dozen underwater ejection tests are needed for SLBM development," said Moon Geun-shik at the Korea Defense and Security Forum. "It seems the North is currently in the middle of the process and will keep conducting tests."
The North on Nov. 11 declared a no-sail, no-fly zone in the East Sea until Dec. 7, prompting South Korea and the U.S. to prepare for a missile test.
The North apparently launched the missile from a new Sinpo-class submarine that is about 67 m long and weighs 2,000 t.
The missile seems to be based on the old Soviet SS-N-6 and is some 8.9 m long and has an estimated range of about 2,400 km.
To make SLBMs warfare-ready, the North will have to deploy them on medium- or large-sized submarines.
The South Korean military has said it will be possible for the North to deploy SLBMs warfare-ready in four to five years, though some experts say that is more likely to take two to three years.
U.S. officials claim it will take less than a year, some sources said.
Once deployed, such missiles would be able to cut through planned South Korean missile defenses, which are being built with an eye on surface-launched missiles only.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com