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NK may be preparing to launch submarine missile: CSIS

North Korea claims to have tested Pukguksong-3 in waters off Wonsan, Kangwon Province, Oct. 2, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea claims to have tested Pukguksong-3 in waters off Wonsan, Kangwon Province, Oct. 2, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)
Satellite images suggest North Korea may be preparing to launch a submarine-launched ballistic missile at its Sinpo South Shipyard along its east coast, a US think tank said Wednesday.

“Activity remains suggestive, but not conclusive, of preparations for an upcoming test of a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the submersible test stand barge,” said Joseph Bermudez, senior fellow for imagery analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The North was suspected of going through similar preparations on Friday, when CSIS unveiled satellite images showing vessels in the secure boat basin, which the think tank said resembled ships used to tow the SLBM test stand barge out to sea.

CSIS said that was the “primary indicator” but was cautious at the time as well, saying activity seen there was not conclusive.

The think tank said it found a new, unidentified vehicle and trailer present on the dock on Friday, in addition to a vessel within the secure boat basin, as seen the last time. 

If the North tests an SLBM, it would reinforce views that it has advanced its ballistic missile development and wants to display its progress around the time when the regime celebrates the anniversary of its ruling party on Oct. 10.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told the parliamentary intelligence committee on Aug. 20 that submarine activities at the shipyard continued to be picked up by South Korean and US intelligence.

North Korea launched what it claimed was a new SLBM, the Pukguksong-3, Oct. 2 last year, three days before it sat for working-level nuclear talks with the US in Stockholm. The negotiations fell apart due to disagreement over denuclearization conditions and sanctions relief.

Joseph Yun, former US special representative for North Korea policy, told a teleconference hosted by a local news outlet here Wednesday that Pyongyang would not engage in provocation, such as a nuclear test, in the run-up to the US presidential election in November.

Yun advised the Seoul government to seek cooperation from all parties involved in inter-Korean projects, days after the unification minister here told a forum that the two Koreas should lead the way to “complete, verifiable, irreversible peace,” against the backdrop of international cooperation.

By Choi Si-young (