Expert: North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile won’t be ready until 2020

Posted on : 2016-08-26 15:04 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
New satellite images also show what appear to be a new submarine base near Sinpo on North Korea’s east coast
A photo released on Aug. 25 by North Korea’s Korean Central Television
A photo released on Aug. 25 by North Korea’s Korean Central Television

A US expert predicted North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) will not be ready for combat deployment until 2020.

The prediction comes amid speculation that the SLBM, which was test-launched by the North on Aug. 24, could be deployed as early as the end of this year.

Joseph Bermudez, a researcher and North Korean military expert with the intelligence analysis firm AllSource Analysis, explained his prediction in a conference call organized on Aug. 24 by the North Korea affairs website 38 North.

“For a North Korean submarine to have survival capabilities [after a missile attack], they would need to develop and deploy a bigger SLBM,” he explained.

Bermudez went on to say North Korea “appears to have begun designing that kind of submarine a few years ago.”

“Given North Korea’s current naval production capabilities, [deployment] would be possible around 2020,” he predicted.

Bermudez also said, “The fact that the ballistic missile launch test was successful doesn’t mean [North Korea] has an operation system.”

“We don’t know the specifics about how accurate it is or what the range is,” he added.

In another conference call that day, former State Department North Korea analyst Joel Wit of 38 North noted, “Many countries have tried to develop SLBMs, but they haven’t made smooth progress, and it’s taken much longer than anticipated.”

“Even if they are developed [without setbacks], the date for a combat deployment would be around 2020,” he continued.

Wit also responded to claims that North Korea has been speeding up its nuclear and missile program development since Kim Jong-un took over as leader.

“It’s a natural outcome of the missile program that was started ten years ago [when Kim Jong-il was leader],” he said.

Meanwhile, Bermudez claimed in a contribution to 38 North the same day that North Korea was “demonstrating a nascent capability to strike at South Korea with an SLBM, thereby complicating ballistic missile defense planning and operations.”

Bermudez also presented commercial satellite images of facilities showing what is believed to a new submarine base under construction at Yuktaedong near the Sinpo County base in South Hamgyong Province where the recent test-launch was carried out.

By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent

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