(2nd LD) N. Korea confirms test-launch of new SLBM in state media report
(ATTN: ADDS expert's comment, more info in paras 5-6, 11, 16)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea announced Wednesday that it has successfully conducted a test-firing of a new-type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) a day earlier.
On Tuesday, South Korea's military said the North fired a short-range missile believed to be an SLBM from the vicinity of Sinpo, where its main submarine shipyard is located. It marked the North's eighth known major missile test this year.
The Academy of National Defense Science conducted the test-launch from "8.24 Yongung" where its first SLBM was "successfully launched five years ago to demonstrate the military muscle of the DPRK, " according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In August 2016, North Korea claimed it had successfully launched an SLBM in waters off its east coast near Sinpo, though Seoul officials have said it was unclear if the missile was actually fired from a submarine.
In a photo released by the North on Wednesday, the number 824 was seen painted on a 2,000-ton class submarine, apparently commemorating the country's SLBM launch on Aug. 24, 2016. "Yongung" is a Korean word for hero.
It is yet to be confirmed whether the new weapon was actually launched from the submarine this time, not from a barge, but the South Korean military is known to be weighing the possibility it was actually fired from the sub.
"It clarified that the new type SLBM, into which lots of advanced control guidance technologies including flank mobility and gliding skip mobility are introduced, will greatly contribute to putting the defense technology of the country on a high level and to enhancing the underwater operational capability of our navy," the KCNA said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not inspect the firing.
The new weapon appears to be a mini-SLBM first showcased at a rare defense exhibition held in Pyongyang last week to mark the 76th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
During the event, Kim ordered the country's military capabilities to be strengthened, calling it the North's "first and foremost task."
"The new weapon looks similar to the North's KN-23 Iskander missile in design," professor Kim Dong-yup at the University of North Korean Studies said, warning that it is feared to boost the North's tactical capabilities targeting South Korea and Japan.
The North's latest show of force came amid a flurry of diplomatic activities to resume the long-stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the United States remains ready to engage with North Korea anytime and anywhere, adding that the North's missile tests underscore the urgent need to engage with the reclusive state.
Tuesday's firing also came about a month after South Korea conducted a test-launch of an indigenously designed SLBM from its 3,000-ton submarine, declaring to have become the world's seventh country to possess SLBM capability.
Days after the South's SLBM launch, North Korea discounted the new weapon as a "clumsy product" in the elementary stage of development, questioning its ability to serve as an effective means of attack.
The North's SLBM flew around 590 kilometers at a top altitude of 60 km.
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