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North may be developing an anti-ship missile

Mar 14,2017
North Korea is developing anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) and Iran could have backed up an essential part of the needed technology, multiple sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

An ASBM is a missile system designed to hit targets in the sea, such as warships. Officials from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said Sunday the North has mastered target tracking capabilities and tested them last September and February through Scud-ER missiles.

An ASBM stands out from ordinary ballistic missiles in that the warhead is capable of searching for the current location of a moving target and veering itself towards it, instead of dropping on the spot it was initially aimed at. China and Iran are the only known countries to have the technology.

Pyongyang could have obtained the knowledge from Iran, according to local sources, as both countries have maintained close military development ties since the 1990s.

Dan Shoham, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Bar-Ilan University, Israel, said in an email interview with the JoongAng Ilbo that North Korea acquired the Fateh-110 from Iran around 2012, the Middle Eastern country’s latest ASBM to date.

Chances are said to be low at this point that the North’s ASBM pose a threat to neighboring countries because the regime doesn’t have a satellite to locate any targets.

The latest update on North Korea’s missile capabilities comes as 38 North, an online website on North Korean affairs, raised the possibility of a sixth nuclear experiment by leader Kim Jong-un, citing satellite imagery near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

The U.S. think tank wrote that substantial tunnel excavation was continuing at the location, which leads to a mountain where up to 800 meters (2,625 feet) of overlying rock is available for test containment. One possible date North Korea could pursue a sixth nuclear test is April 16, the anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather.

North Korea has a history celebrating significant anniversaries by flaunting its military prowess.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE, CHUN SU-JIN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]