North Korea has test-fired what is believe to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile which landed in the ocean off its east coast.
The launch took place at 10.17am local time close to Sinpo, North Korea’s main submarine-building shipyard, according to South Korea’s military.
A single ‘ballistic missile’ was launched, the South said, flying an unknown distance before crashing down into the East Sea.
It is unclear how the missile was launched, but the fact that it took place at the submarine shipyard suggests it could have been launched from one of the country’s subs. If confirmed, it would be the first time that has happened.
North Korea has tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) before, including one launch that began underwater, but it is thought the missile was fired from a submerged platform rather than a submarine.
It comes just days after it was revealed that China had tested a new orbital vehicle – thought by analysts to be a hypersonic nuke. Beijing denies this, saying it was actually a civilian spacecraft.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile from near its main submarine-building shipyard at Sinpo in the early hours of Tuesday, sparking speculation that it was testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (file image)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang on October 11
Analysts believe the Chinese could have been testing a new version of old Soviet nuclear technology called FOBS, which is designed to evade missile detection and defence technology.
Speaking about North Korea’s launch on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said: ‘Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States, to prepare for possible additional launches.’
South Korea’s presidential office was planning to hold a national security council meeting later in the day to discuss the launch.
Ending a months long lull in September, North Korea has been ramping up its weapons tests while making conditional peace offers to Seoul, reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to try to get what it wants from the United States.
Within days, President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, is schedule to hold talks with U.S. allies in Seoul over the prospects of reviving talks with North Korea.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for more than two years over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea and the North’s denuclearization steps.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s offers to restart dialogue without preconditions, saying that Washington must first abandon its ‘hostile policy,’ a term the North mainly uses to refer to sanctions and U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
A report from the Financial Times, which cited five unnamed intelligence sources, said the Chinese military launched the Long March rocket in August carrying a ‘hypersonic glide vehicle’ into low orbit. It circled the globe before descending towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles. The system would be able to overcome US anti-ballistic missile defence systems that are based in Alaska and set up to shoot down projectiles coming over the North Pole – the Chinese system would be able to strike the US from the south
But while North Korea is apparently trying to use South Korea’s desire for inter-Korean engagement to extract concessions from Washington, analysts say Seoul has little wiggle room as the Biden administration is intent on keeping sanctions in place until the North makes concrete steps toward denuclearization.
‘The US continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue,’ Sung Kim told reporters on Monday, referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
‘Our intent remains the same. We harbor no hostile intent toward the DPRK and we are open to meeting without preconditions.’
‘Even as we remain open to dialogue, we also have a responsibility to implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions addressing the DPRK,’ he said.
Last week, Kim Jong Un reviewed powerful missiles designed to launch nuclear strikes on the U.S. mainland during a military exhibition and vowed to build an ‘invincible’ military to cope with what he called persistent U.S. hostility.
Earlier, Kim dismissed U.S. offers for resuming talks without preconditions as ‘cunning’ attempt to conceal its hostile policy on the North.
The country has tested various weapons over the past month, including a new cruise missile that could potentially carry nuclear warheads, a rail-launched ballistic system, a developmental hypersonic missile and a new anti-aircraft missile.
But the North in recent weeks have also restored communication lines with the South and said it could take further steps to improve bilateral relations if Seoul abandons its ‘double-dealing attitude’ and ‘hostile viewpoint.’
China was also revealed to have tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which orbited the globe before returning to Earth to strike its target in a technological development that would overcome US anti-ballistic missile systems.
Weapons race: A comparison of the most advanced (columns from left) missiles, aircraft carriers, tanks and aircraft possessed by China, the US and Russia
A report from the Financial Times, which cited five unnamed intelligence sources, said the Chinese military launched the Long March rocket in August carrying a ‘hypersonic glide vehicle’ into low orbit.
It circled the globe before descending towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles.
A Chinese government spokesman refuted those claims Monday night, claiming that the missile was in fact an experimental rocket designed to offer a peaceful means of space exploration.
The hypersonic missiles can reach speeds of up to 21,000mph and can strike anywhere on Earth from space within minutes.
The system would be able to overcome US anti-ballistic missile defense systems that are based in Alaska and set up to shoot down projectiles coming over the North Pole – the Chinese system would be able to strike the US from the south.
The incident has left US intelligence officials stunned, sources say, as it shows ‘China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons’.
‘We have no idea how they did this,’ a person familiar with the test told the FT.
China has since denied these reports with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian claiming it was ‘a spacecraft, not a missile.’
‘This test was a routine spacecraft experiment to verify the reusable technology of spacecraft, which is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use,’ Zhao said at a press briefing, according to CNN.
‘It can provide a convenient and cheap way for humans to use space peacefully.
‘Many companies in the world have carried out similar experiments.’