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North Korea says underwater-launched missile test succeeded

In this Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, photo provided Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, by the North Korean government, an underwater-launched missile lifts off in the waters off North Korea's eastern coastal town of Wonsan. North Korea fired a ballistic missile from the sea on Wednesday, South Korea's military said, a suggestion that it may have tested an underwater-launched missile for the first time in three years ahead of a resumption of nuclear talks with the United States this weekend. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency.
Image Credit: (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
October 03, 2019 - 5:00 PM

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - North Korea said Thursday it has carried out its first underwater-launched ballistic missile test in three years, in an apparent bid to dial up pressure on the United States ahead of a weekend resumption of their nuclear diplomacy.

North Korea said Wednesday’s test was a Pukguksong-3 missile, which it described as a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The Pentagon, however, rejected North Korea’s claim, saying Thursday the short-to-medium range missile was not launched from a submarine.

Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that the missile came from a sea-based platform, not from underwater. Other defence officials described it as a barge or floating platform. Ryder said the missile flew 280 miles into the Sea of Japan.

The test is seen as the North’s most high-profile weapons launch since it began diplomacy with the United States early last year. Some experts say North Korea wants to show the U.S. what would happen if diplomacy fails again.

The Korean Central News Agency said the missile test in the waters off its east coast was successful and “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces' threat to (North Korea) and further bolstering its military muscle for self-defence.”

It didn’t say which outside forces threaten its security. But North Korea has previously said it was forced to develop nuclear-armed missiles to cope with U.S. military threats.

The KCNA report didn’t initially elaborate on whether the missile was fired from a submarine, a barge or other underwater launch platform. North Korea-dispatched photos showed the missile rising and spewing bright flames above a cloud of smoke from the sea, but the launch platform was not identifiable.

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, wrote on Facebook that the missile was likely fired from a barge built for an underwater launch. He said the missile is under development and that North Korea must test-fire it from a submarine before deploying it.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the North Korean missile travelled about 450 kilometres (280 miles) at a maximum altitude of 910 kilometres (565 miles). Ministry officials said it flew higher than any other short-range weapons North Korea test-fired in recent months.

KCNA said the missile was launched in a vertical mode and that its test had no adverse impact on the security of neighbouring countries. It said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent “warm congratulations” to the national defence scientific research units involved in the test-firing

If fired at a standard trajectory, Kim, the analyst, said the missile could have travelled 1,500-2,000 kilometres (930-1,240 miles). He said the Pukguksong-3 is a medium-range missile. North Korea hadn’t tested a medium- and long-range missiles since its entrance to talks with the United States.

North Korean and U.S. officials are to meet on Saturday to restart diplomacy on how to end the North Korean nuclear crisis. That diplomacy largely remains stalemated after the February breakdown of a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper spoke with his Japanese defence counterpart on Thursday and the two men agreed that the launch was “unnecessarily provocative,” and not helpful in the effort to get North Korea back on the diplomatic path toward denuclearization.

North Korea has recently warned its dealings with the United States may end if Washington fails to come up with new proposals to salvage the nuclear diplomacy by December.

Pukguksong, or Polaris, is a solid-fuel missile in the North’s weapons arsenal. The country first test-launched a Pukguksong-1 missile from an underwater platform in 2016, and Kim said at the time his military had gained "perfect nuclear-attack capability." A year later, the North test-launched a Pukguksong-2, a land-based variant of the missile.

North Korea having an ability to fire a missile from a submarine is a threat to the United States and its allies because such launches are harder to detect early enough to respond. The use of solid fuel also increases a weapon’s mobility.

After Wednesday’s launch, the U.S. State Department called on North Korea "to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization."

Japan lodged an immediate protest, saying the missile landed inside its exclusive economic zone for the first time since November 2017.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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