Satellite photos suggest North Korea preparing submarine missile test: report

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This picture taken on August 11, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 12, 2017 shows North Korean youths and workers and trade union members holding a rally to protest the UN Security Council's "sanctions resolution" at the compound of the Monument to Party Founding in Pyongyang. Nearly a week ago, the UN Security Council unanimously passed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons program, including export bans, a new punishment that could cost North Korea $1 billion a year. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. /

Recent satellite photos suggest North Korea could be preparing for fresh submarine-based ballistic missile tests, an expert on its military said Friday.

Joseph Bermudez, a specialist in North Korean defense and intelligence affairs, posted photographs on the authoritative 38 North blog of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University which he said could show preparations for a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

“Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals several developments suggesting that North Korea may be accelerating the development of the sea-based leg of its nuclear forces,” he said.

Activity on a SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine at the Mayang-do navy shipyard and submarine base, he said, suggests “that the North may be preparing for a new series of ‘at sea’ test launches, has undertaken modifications or upgrades to the submarine’s launch systems, or is developing a more advanced version of the Pukguksong-1.”

The Pukguksong-1 is an SLBM that was first successfully test-launched on August 24, 2016.

That missile flew 500 kilometers (300 miles) towards Japan, which leader Kim Jong-Un said at the time put the US mainland within striking range from a Pacific-based submarine.

Bermudez said the preparations at the submarine in recent weeks match those ahead of previous tests.

The preparations come amid a tense escalation of threats between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s recent gains in nuclear weapons technology and its successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that theoretically could hit cities on the US east coast.

A proven SLBM system would take North Korea’s nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a “second-strike” capability in the event of an attack on its military bases.

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