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NK poised to test submarine-launched ballistic missile: think tank

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a mausoleum at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, the regime’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung, according to the state broadcaster KCNA on July 8, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a mausoleum at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, the regime’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung, according to the state broadcaster KCNA on July 8, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korea appears to be weighing the timing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile as part of the aggression it threatened to stage last month, a think tank that is part of Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

“With an SLBM launch, Pyongyang could deliver strongest shockwaves it intends to the international community, while shunning the risk of being seen as defying the UN Security Council resolutions,” the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said in a report.

The resolutions denouncing the North’s weapons of mass destruction program so far have not specifically touched on SLBMs, it explained.

The North would rely on a method attractive enough to lure the attention of the US to the stalled nuclear talks but would be careful not to go about stretching that method to the extreme to abort the talks altogether, according to the think tank.

The institute said the North could put off provocation until after the America presidential election in November if the US-China feud does not grow into a full-on collision, which the North thinks greatly caters to its interest because a distracted Washington could not hit back at a provoking Pyongyang as forcefully as it would, according to the think tank.

Another North Korean analyst, however, said Pyongyang would forge ahead with a missile launch before November’s election.

“Leader Kim would prefer sealing a nuclear deal with a bragging Trump than with his Democratic rival, since Democrats are pickier over decommissioning the nuclear arsenal,” said Park Won-gon, an international studies professor at Handong University, adding that a provocation would come measured so as not to hamper Trump’s reelection bid.

Park said he was betting on the North’s SLBM or satellite launch aimed to earn sanctions relief from the Trump administration, which would find it increasingly harder to slam Pyongyang upon provocation because that opens the door to disputing the two years of progress that Washington has touted so far.

Park advised the Moon administration to prepare to respond to a real military strike and not a show of force by Pyongyang, adding that he should make the joint defense readiness between Seoul and Washington clear and be ready to deploy strategic military assets upon provocation.

Meanwhile, the North’s state media KCNA reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong-un had visited a mausoleum at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, the regime’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

The 36-year-old Kim sparked speculation over his health when he missed his grandfather’s birthday in April, which is marked with a major holiday there.

Kim was shown accompanied by his sister Kim Yo-jong and key party members, in a clear sign to discredit mushrooming speculation over his health.

Pyongyang’s state-run newspaper and other propaganda outlets produced extensive coverage idolizing the young leader, without a message for either Seoul or Washington, while the two allies were discussing inter-Korean affairs, with US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun set to wrap up his three-day trip here Thursday.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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