North Korea has reportedly tested an ejection launcher for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province.
Carried out onboard a land-based vertical launch tube, the latest tests suggested the initial stage of firing a missile out of a submarine launch tube and signified the shift towards underwater missile strike potential for a future nuclear-tipped missile.
Earlier, the US intelligence agencies reportedly observed ‘two or three’ such trials last month at a facility claimed to be a major development centre for the North Korea’s SLBM programme, in line with South Korea’s intelligence over the North’s missile development, Yonhap reported.
The new missile is believed to be either a new anti-ship cruise missile boasting a range of 130km or a new short-range ballistic missile with 240km range.
In addition to the new vertical launching system, North Korea is also expected to transform its 3,000t Golf-class submarine to make it capable of firing medium-range ballistic missiles.
Last month, North Korea launched a new 67m-long Soviet-era Golf II-class diesel submarine, which is capable of carrying a single-stage, liquid-propellant missile with a 1,180kg warhead and a maximum range of 1,420km.
North Korea reportedly possesses 78 submarines, the most in the world, followed by the US, China and Russia.
However, most of the North Korean vessels are outdated Soviet-era and Chinese vessels.