North Korea Fine Tunes its Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Capabilities
- Around 7:11 am on October 2 (KST), North Korea launched what may have been a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from waters northeast of the Wonsan, Kangwon Province area into the sea between Korea and Japan.
- The last Beyond Parallel report on the Sinpo South Shipyard indicated the possibility of ongoing preparations for a launch.
- It is yet unclear whether the missile was launched from a submarine or submersible test stand barge.
- If it was indeed launched from a submarine, it was most likely from the SINPO-class ballistic missile submarine and not the long anticipated follow-on ballistic missile submarine that appears to be a modified ROMEO-class submarine. It would be highly unusual if the launch had occurred from the newly built follow-on ballistic missile submarine that North Korean state media announced in July earlier this year. Even if the new submarine had been launched in the past two months it would still be highly unusual to launch a ballistic missile from it without the new submarine having completed sea trial and acceptance tests.
- This would be the first successful SLBM launch by North Korea in 3 years, since August 24, 2016.
- The projectile is presumed to be a Pukguksong-1 or Pukguksong-3 missile.
- The maximum flight altitude is approximately 910 km and the distance traveled is approximately 450 km.
- This is the 11th test launch by North Korea this year just days ahead of possible nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea following a seven-month break in diplomatic talks.
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
is an internationally recognized analyst, award-winning author, and lecturer on North Korean defense and intelligence affairs and ballistic missile development in developing countries. He is concurrently senior fellow for Imagery Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS); senior adviser and imagery analyst for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK); author for IHS Markit (formerly the Jane’s Information Group); and publisher and editor of KPA Journal. Formerly, he has served as founder and CEO of KPA Associates, LLC, senior imagery analyst for 38 North at Johns Hopkins SAIS, chief analytics officer and co-founder of AllSource Analysis, Inc., and senior all-source analyst for DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center.
is a senior adviser and the inaugural holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
is a research assistant with the CSIS Office of the Korea Chair.
Headline image credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images