N. Korea says it tested submarine-launched ballistic missile

File photo (Reuters/KCNA)
North Korea is making waves with the reported test launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) – a game-changing “world-level strategic weapon,” according to leader Kim Jong-Un. If confirmed, the test would violate existing UN resolutions.

Kim personally oversaw the launch, the state-run KCNA agency reports. The report detailed how the launcher submarine dived at the sound of a combat alarm to test fire the missile.

"After a while, the ballistic missile soared into the sky from underwater," KCNA added. However, time and place of the test was not provided.

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There was no independent confirmation of the test launch, although KCNA released accompanying pictures to go with the story. They depicted missiles being fired out of the water, with Kim watching over the process in the background.

Ordinarily, the world does not take Pyongyang’s threats too seriously – partly for the reason that there was no word on the North’s capacity to launch long-range attacks against sworn enemies like the United States. This could change, however; if proven, a fully-developed SLBM capability could see Pyongyang deploying strikes to much more distant locations than previously thought.

Satellite images taken earlier this week appeared to show the top of a new North Korean submarine, complete with a pair of launch tubes that could be used for ballistic or cruise missiles. Analysts are wary of drawing conclusions on that, as they believe a full SLBM capability would simply be too costly and cumbersome for Pyongyang to develop at this time – “years”, according to the same Johns Hopkins university experts that analyzed the images.

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Dan Pinkston, Korea expert at the International Crisis Group in Seoul, believes, however, that nothing is impossible. "If this is what North Korea claims it is, then it has come much sooner than anyone expected," AFP cited him as saying.

"An SLBM capability would certainly increase the credibility of the North's retaliatory threat, but I'd like to see what foreign intel says about this test," he added.

Kim is as embattled as ever, though, claiming the launch now means the North possesses a “world-level strategic weapon capable of striking and wiping out in any waters the hostile forces infringing upon (North Korea's) sovereignty and dignity."

He hailed the launch as an “eye-opening success” the likes of the successful 2012 launch of a satellite into orbit. At the time the UN struck out at the launch, claiming it was a veiled ballistic missile test.

The United States promptly reacted to news of the possible launch and called on the North not to escalate regional tensions with such acts. A State Department official made reference to a number of UN Security Council resolutions Pyongyang will have violated if the launch turns out to be real.

"We call on North Korea to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations," the official said in an e-mail, as cited by Reuters.