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North Korea responds to US fleet’s arrival with latest missile test

North Korea has responded to the arrival of a US carrier group in the region by testing a missile that analysts fear could be the first in a new generation designed to be launched from submarines.

South Korea’s military says at least one unidentified ballistic missile toward its eastern sea.

The launch came a day after South Korean officials said they detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test a missile specifically designed to be fired from submarines.

North Korea has dialled up its testing activities to a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy.

The launch came as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group arrived in South Korea for the two countries’ joint military exercise to show their strength against growing North Korean threats.

The North Korean threat is also expected to be a key agenda item when US Vice President Kamala Harris visits South Korea next week after attending the state funeral in Tokyo of slain former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Threat from below

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol earlier said he was briefed on possible North Korean preparations for a submarine-launched ballistic test before his flight back home from a visit to Canada.

On Wednesday, the North Korea-focused website 38North said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows multiple barges and other vessels gathered at the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard building submarines.

The report said the North was possibly preparing to launch a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles.

North Korea has been pushing hard to acquire an ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from submarines, which it sees as a key piece in building a nuclear arsenal that can viably threaten its neighbours and eventually the American homeland.

Such weapons in theory would bolster North Korea’s deterrent by ensuring retaliation after absorbing a nuclear attack on land.

Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to the North’s growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from land vehicles, which are being developed with an apparent aim to overwhelm missile defence systems in South Korea and Japan.

Still, experts say the heavily sanctioned nation would need considerably more time, resources and major technological improvements to build at least several submarines that could travel quietly in seas and reliably execute strikes.

-AAP

Topics: North Korea
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