Global Independent Analytics

North Korea 'fires submarine-launched ballistic missile'

"We are keeping close tabs on the North Korean military and maintaining a full defense posture"

BBC News reporting: South Korea just accused North of firing a ballistic missile from a submarine off its eastern coast.

It’s still unknown if the test was successful or if it was just a ruse.

If successful, this test would definitely put North Korea on every nation’s nuclear threat radar, because submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are hard to detect.

It comes as North Korea gears up for a rare and significant party congress next month.

North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under UN sanctions dating back to 2006.

"North Korea launched a projectile which was believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile around 6:30 pm (0930 GMT) in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) near the north-eastern port of Sinpo," a South Korea defense ministry spokesman said.

"We are keeping close tabs on the North Korean military and maintaining a full defense posture," he said.

North Korea hasn’t released an official confirmation yet, even though it has claimed successful launches like this before, but experts doubt these claims.

The US says photographs supposedly showing one launch in December were manipulated and others think the North has fired missiles from submerged platforms, but not submarines.

Regarding this latest test, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile traveled about 30km (19 miles), whereas a typical SLBM can travel at least 300km (186 miles).

North Korea has so far conducted four nuclear tests - the first one in October 2006 and the latest in January this year.

The UN Security Council responded to the latter by imposing date over the North's nuclear weapons program.

Last month North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles, although experts cast doubt on the claims.

Analysts believe the North may be gearing up for a fifth test as a show of strength ahead of the North Korean Workers' Party Congress, the first since 1980.

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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