On Wednesday, a top South Korean military official said, amid the long-stalled nuclear talks between the North and the United States, North Korea may soon conduct its first underwater-launched ballistic missile test in about a year.
Head of the private Korea Defense Study Forum in Seoul, Jung Changwook, said “In early November, North Korea could perform a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, test to upgrade its nuclear attack capability and put pressure on Washington after the US presidential election.”
Jung said, there has been speculation that North Korea may test such a missile before the anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party on October 10 but stressed that North Korea is aiming more at pressuring the US rather than celebrating its state anniversary.
Jung said the possible upcoming test would also be made from the barge, not the new submarine, to not provoke the United States too much.
North Korea hasn’t conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests in an apparent bid to keep chances for a resumption of diplomacy alive.
Jung said a missile fired from the barge would have a potential range of 300-500 kilometers (185-310 miles), thus posing no direct threat to the US mainland.
The nuclear talks have made little headway since the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in early 2019 collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions against North Korea.
A test of an underwater-launched missile by North Korea last October was the first of its kind in three years, and the most provocative weapons test since North Korea entered nuclear negotiations with the US in 2018.
In recent years, North Korea has been pushing hard to acquire the ability to launch missiles from submarines in what experts say is a worrying development because such weapons are difficult to detect before launch.
North Korea will conduct any major weapons test soon because it is grappling with multiple crises, including typhoon damage, the coronavirus pandemic that led to the closure of its border with China.