Military, Nuclear Weapons

December 2019 Sinpo Update No. 2: Waiting for Godot

Key Findings

  • As with Beyond Parallel’s December 4 report, satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard collected on December 14, 2019 does not provide any indication of the launch of the much anticipated “newly built submarine” or preparations for the shipyard’s test stand.
  • The only observation of significance at the shipyard is the presence of a 16-METER class midget submarine (SSW) moored alongside the barely visible submersible missile test stand barge in the shipyard’s secure boat basin.
  • It is presumed that the North’s existing SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) remains moored along the dock under the removable camouflaged canopy.
Overview of the Sinpo South Shipyard as of December 14, 2019. (Copyright © 2019 Planet)

With growing speculation concerning a North Korean end-of-year “surprise” Beyond Parallel continues its survey of North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) facilities with a look at the Sinpo South Shipyard.1

As with Beyond Parallel’s December 4 report, satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard collected on December 14, 2019 does not provide any indication of the launch of the much anticipated “newly built submarine” or preparations for the shipyard’s test stand—used to perform submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) ejection tests. When launched the new submarine will be the North’s first true ballistic missile submarine (SSB) and likely armed with the Pukguksong-3 SLBM.

The only observation of significance at the shipyard is the presence of a 16-METER class midget submarine (SSW) moored alongside the barely visible submersible missile test stand barge in the shipyard’s secure boat basin. As is indicated by the small smoke plume the midget submarine has recently started up its engine. The presence of midget submarines in the secure boat basin, or at the shipyard in general, is not unusual as indicated in our report from August 28, 2019 and has no bearing on the SSB or SLBM programs.

While not visible under the approximately 102-meter-by-13-meter removable canopy—installed to restrict overhead observation of activity or vessels present underneath—it is presumed that the North’s existing SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) remains moored along the dock under it.

References

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  1. Additional reports in this series can be found at https://beyondparallel.csis.org.