The Korea Herald


North Korea’s nuclear negotiators head to Sweden after successful SLBM launch

By Park Han-na

Published : Oct. 3, 2019 - 15:32

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North Korea said Thursday its testing of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile was successful -- touting it as a significant milestone in strengthening its self-defense -- even as its nuclear negotiating team headed to Sweden for working-level talks with the US.

Its state news agency KCNA said that the Pukguksong-3 missile was test-fired at a high angle in the waters off Wonsan, a military base used for previous missile launches, and was designed to contain external threats.

“The successful new-type SLBM test-firing is of great significance as it ushered in a new phase in containing the external threats to the DPRK and further bolstering its military muscle for self-defense,” the KCNA said, using the official name of the communist nation.

The missile flew a distance of 450 kilometers before entering waters off Japan. It reached the maximum altitude of 910 kilometers, according to a statement from South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff on Wednesday. 

An image of North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- the Pukguksong-1 (left), Pukguksong-2 and Pukguksong-3 (Yonhap) An image of North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- the Pukguksong-1 (left), Pukguksong-2 and Pukguksong-3 (Yonhap)

It was the North’s 11th missile test since May. It successfully test-fired a Pukguksong-1 ballistic missile, codenamed KN-11, from a 2,000-ton Sinpo-class submarine off the east coast, which flew around 500 kilometers at the maximum altitude of around 500 to 600 kilometers in August 2016.

North Korea’s SLBM is a strategic weapon capable of carrying nuclear warheads and attacking the US island territory of Guam, depending on the size of the submarine.

Experts said the missile appears to have been fired from a barge platform designed to test underwater launches, and could have used solid fuel.

“Given that a ship that pulls a barge is waiting next to the launch point in the photo released by North Korea, the missile was likely fired from a launcher placed on a floating barge,” said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

He believes that Pyongyang used cold-launching technology, which ejects the missile out of an undersea submarine to the surface using high-pressure gas.

“This is the North’s first successful sea launch given the good ignition timing and fairly stable posture (of the missile),” he said.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concerns about the latest missile launch, urging Washington and Pyongyang to work together to make progress toward denuclearization and sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“The launch of a ballistic missile is yet another violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Unlike previous missile tests that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally supervised, the KCNA didn’t mention his presence at the site, saying that he sent “warm congratulations.”

Some analysts said his rare absence indicates the North’s intention not to provoke the US ahead of their working-level talks, which will be held Saturday.

The North Korean delegation led by diplomat Kim Myong-gil arrived in Beijing via an Air Koryo flight on Thursday en route to the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

They were confirmed to have reserved Air China tickets bound for the city, according to news reports, citing an official at Beijing Capital International Airport.

The North’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui was not spotted at the airport.

By Park Han-na (