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(LEAD) N. Korea claims successful launch of SLBM

All Headlines 11:11 April 24, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 3-10; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea claimed Sunday that it successfully launched a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that can greatly advance the fighting capability of its Navy.

The country's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was present for the important event and stressed that Pyongyang now has the capability to strike its opponents in South Korea and the United States, with the least warning and at anytime it pleases.

Kim also said that with the SLBM launch, the DPRK now possesses a powerful nuclear weapons arsenal and a credible delivery system, the news agency said. The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

"He noted with great satisfaction that Juche Korea had access to one more means for a powerful nuclear attack as required by the strategic intention of the Party Central Committee," the KCNA report said. It added that the leader praised the officials, scientists and technicians in the fields of national defense science and munitions factories for having successfully developed the technology for the underwater missile launch from a strategic submarine.

The central committee makes key decisions for the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, while Juche refers to the communist country's guiding philosophy of self-reliance.

"He (then) urged them to step up the project for bolstering the nuclear force to mount nuclear attacks on the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet group of traitors any time when the Party is determined to do so," the KCNA report said.

The report argued that the missile was launched from its maximum underwater depth, and that its "cold launch" ejection mechanism and high performance engine using solid fuel worked without a hitch, along with its flight controls and warhead release systems.

SLBMs, if launched underwater, are very hard to counter because such missiles cannot be detected until they are airborne. These weapons have the advantage of being very mobile and stealthy because they are carried by submarines, which complicates defense.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed Saturday that the North fired what could be a KN-1 SLBM around 6:30 p.m. (Korean time) in the East Sea but maintain it flew just about 30 kilometers, well short of the minimum range of 300 km. Seoul's military speculated that the missile test had failed, although predicting the North will launch more submarine launched missiles down the line.

The North's media then said the successful test-fire would bolster the underwater operational capability of the Navy.

The KCNA also said Kim called on defense sector scientists and technicians to uphold through scientific practices the party's strategic intention to react to overseas nuclear weapons threats.

"He urged them to step up the project for bolstering the nuclear force to mount nuclear attacks on the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet group of traitors any time when the Party is determined to do," the media outlet reported.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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