North Korea tests submarine-launched missile

SEOUL – North Korea fired a submarine-launched short-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Saturday, hours after the United States warned the country could conduct a nuclear test as early as this month- this.

The missile, the first of its kind tested since October, was launched from waters near the coastal town of Sinpo and traveled 372 miles, the South Korean military said. It was the North’s 15th missile test this year, a rapid pace by recent standards, and its second this week, which comes three days before Yoon Suk-yeol, the president-elect of the South Korea.

Analysts have warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to order more weapons tests in the coming weeks, develop the North’s missiles and nuclear technology and achieve an effect of potential diplomatic leverage against Mr. Yoon and President Biden, who plan to meet in Seoul later this month.

On Friday, Jalina Porter, spokeswoman for the US State Department, said North Korea was making preparations at its underground nuclear test site and could be ready to carry out its seventh nuclear test “as soon as this month”. .

Mr. Yoon is expected to take a hawkish stance on Northern relations over incumbent President Moon Jae-in, who brokered Mr. Kim’s ultimately unsuccessful talks with Donald J. Trump when he was president.

During South Korea’s election campaign, Yoon called for stronger enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from developing and testing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology.

North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile program is seen as a particularly acute threat because it could expand the reach of the country’s nuclear arsenal. The deployment of missiles launched by submarines is also more difficult to detect in advance. They are part of an array of new weapons Mr. Kim has ordered his government to develop.

South Korean defense officials said the missile fired on Saturday appeared to have been launched from an actual submarine, unlike some tested in the past, which would have been fired from underwater platforms . North Korea has only one known submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile, with a single launch tube, but it is developing a new one with greater capabilities, according to the South Korean military.

North Korea has a naval base in Sinpo, which houses its submarine-launched ballistic missile program.

In March, the North carried out its first intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017, ending a moratorium on such tests that Mr. Kim had announced before embarking on his direct diplomacy with Mr. Trump. Those talks bogged down in 2019 as the two sides failed to reach an agreement on curtailing the North’s nuclear program or easing international sanctions.

At a military parade last month in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, Mr Kim pledged to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal “at the fastest possible speed”, while asking North Koreans to prepare for a confrontation with external enemies “for a long period of time.”

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