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Pyongyang is working on 2nd SLBM facility

Oct 02,2017
As concerns over North Korea’s missile threats continue, 38 North wrote in a recent analysis that Pyongyang was continuing work on its second known submersible ballistic missile testing facility at the Nampo navy shipyard on the country’s west coast.

Analyzing commercial satellite imagery from Sept. 1, 38 North, which is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, wrote last Thursday that construction seemed to have taken place during the past five months on four support superstructures of the stand, located on a barge, and possibly in the area of the forward hull.

Imagery from Sept. 21 showed a portal crane on the east side had been rotated, and work was being done on the barge, though the nature of the work could not be determined from the imagery.

“Clearly visible in all images is the central ring that is used to support a missile launch tube during testing,” wrote 38 North. “During a test, support cables are connected from the center and top of the launch tube to the four support towers.”

Among several possibilities, North Korea might be trying to expand its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) development program to the west coast, or salvage the second barge, which was first identified last April, for parts to maintain the originally acquired barge based at the Sinpo south shipyard, which has been used since 2014.

On Sunday, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun cited a military source in saying that North Korea carried out an engine test for an SLBM in mid-September but completely failed. The test, which was held in the Sinpo shipyard, ended with an “explosion” that killed at least one North Korean technician.

The source continued that Seoul and Washington were trying to figure out whether the engine had been intended for an SLBM that has never been tested before or shown to the outer world, with one possibility being the Pukguksong-3. The missile’s schematics were partly revealed in a photo released by the North’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Aug. 23.

South Korea’s military said it could not confirm the Japanese news report.

If not an SLBM, North Korea could be preparing an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 or an intercontinental-range Hwasong-14 ballistic missile test, according to South Korea’s public broadcaster KBS.

The channel cited an unidentified intelligence source last Friday in saying that Seoul and Washington have recently detected “several missiles” being transported from a missile research factory in Pyongyang, continuing that chances were high they were either a Hwasong-12 or a Hwasong-14.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]