April 05, 2019 13:42
North Korea is building a new 3,000-ton submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, a senior military spokesman here said Thursday.
"A large quantity of components presumably needed to build a 3,000-ton sub, which the North has been developing, have turned up recently at a shipyard in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province," the spokesman said. "We've also spotted a floating dock deployed off Sinpo, apparently for a missile test."
Google Earth satellite imagery from March 2 shows piles of cylindrical components and materials presumed to be submarine bulkheads at the shipyard. None of them can be seen in satellite imagery from August last year.
Pictures also show that the facilities are well-maintained there and the floating dock, which was previously moored at the pier, is now floating offshore. "This suggests that the North has kept building a new sub and testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile," he said.
Construction seems to have been going on even as North Korea was in denuclearization talks with the U.S.
The North's existing 2,000-ton sub is capable of carrying only one ballistic missile, but the new sub could deploy three or four. Russian models can carry up to 12. That would drastically increase the North's strategic strike capability, and any launch would be hard to detect.
The new sub could travel into the Pacific and strike U.S. bases in Guam or Hawaii armed with the latest Pukguksong-3 SLBMs with a range of more than 2,000 km. "In theory, the new sub could travel across the Pacific and turn up in waters off the U.S. west coast," he added.
Meanwhile, Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command, said in a hearing at a U.S Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Wednesday that the North's deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles is "imminent" and it is almost certain that they are designed for an attack on the U.S. mainland.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "declared the completion of his nuclear ICBM research and development program [in 2017], implying the production and deployment of these systems would soon follow," O'Shaughnessy said.
Kim "developed these strategic weapons to deter the U.S. from overthrowing his regime, and he almost certainly has plans to use them against our homeland should a conflict erupt on the peninsula," he added.
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