With North Korea-US Talks Set to Begin, Regime Releases Images of Missile Launch

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By Patrick Goodenough | October 4, 2019 | 4:22 AM EDT

Photos released by North Korean state media shows a missile purportedly being launched from waters off its east coast on Oct. 2, 2019. (Photo: KCNA)

(CNSNews.com) – As North Korean officials headed to Sweden to resume stalled talks with their U.S. counterparts, the regime’s state media released imagery purportedly showing the test-firing Wednesday of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) which landed in the Sea of Japan.

The images show a projectile emerging from the sea and flying in a steep trajectory. Military officers are pictured viewing the reported launch from an observation point. Kim Jong Un was also photographed, apparently watching proceedings on screen from elsewhere.

The KCNA news agency said the weapon fired from the waters off its east coast city of Wonsan was a “new-type” Pukguksong-3 (“North Pole 3”), and that the launch had confirmed its “key tactical and technical indexes,” while having “no adverse impact on the security of neighboring countries.”

“The successful test-firing of the new-type SLBM is of great significance as it ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threats to the DPRK and further bolstering up its military muscle for self-defense,” it added. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the nation’s formal name.

The South Korean military reported that the missile had reached an altitude of 910 kilometers (565 miles) before splashing down in the ocean 450 kilometers (280 miles) from the launch location.

On a less steep trajectory, it would therefore have been theoretically capable of flying up to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), which under U.S. definition would place at about the midpoint of the medium-range ballistic missile category.

“If the Pukguksong-3 had used a standard trajectory, it would have overflown Japan and covered 1,900 to 2,000 km, making it the longest-range solid-fuel missile North Korea has tested to date,” Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said on the Stimson Center’s specialist website 38 North.

Although the photos show the missile emerging from the sea, Elleman said the projectile, while designed to be fired from a submarine, was likely launched from a submerged barge, standard practice in early SLBM tests in order to avoid the risk of harming submarines or their crews.

“The Pukguksong-3 represents another step forward in North Korea’s pursuit of a sea-based deterrent force,” he said. “Additional flight tests are likely, including an eventual launch from a prototype submarine.”

The missile, which landed in Japan’s 200-nautical mile-wide exclusive economic zone, flew further and higher than those launched in a dozen previous instances since last May.

But the Stalinist regime’s earlier tests of ballistic missiles – predating the historic first summit between Kim and President Trump in June 2018 – included some that traveled considerably further. A Hwasong-12 missile launched in Sept. 2017 flew about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles), across Japan, before landing in the northern Pacific.

Trump has shrugged off the short-range missile launches that have taken place since May, drawing a distinction between them and the ICBM and long-range missile tests that were carried out in 2017 – before he and Kim met for the first time in June last year. Wednesday’s test was the first of this year’s crop launched from a submarine.

Asked at the White House on Thursday whether the North Koreans had “gone too far this time,” Trump said only, “We’ll see. They want to talk, and we’ll be talking to them soon. We’ll see.”

North Korean officials arrived in Stockholm, Sweden late on Thursday, for weekend talks with the U.S., the first to be held since a second summit between Trump and Kim, in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, ended early and without agreement eight months ago.

As the delegation transited through Beijing earlier in the day, the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, told reporters he had “high expectations and optimism” ahead of the discussions, saying that the U.S. side had “sent a new signal.”

The resumption of talks was announced on Tuesday by the regime’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son-hui, who said without naming a venue that the two sides would have a “preliminary contact” on Friday, followed by working-level talks on Saturday.

The SLBM launch came just a day later.

The only countries known to have operational SLBMs in their inventories are Britain, China, France, India, Russia, and the United States.

 

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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