US acknowledges North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile

US acknowledges North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile

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North Korea is in the process of developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Admiral Cecil D. Haney confirmed during testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
The existence of such a program, suspected for at least the past several months, will definitely pose future complications for the security of Northeast Asia, and potentially the entire Pacific. It may take several years to develop, but a viable SLBM with an effective transport could improve the range, secrecy and flexibility with which North Korea could threaten South Korean, Japanese and American civil and military targets.While the testimony by the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command only mentions general North Korean development of SLBMs, previous reporting, largely by the Washington Free Beacon news site, paints a more complete picture of the program.
Recent testing of the SLBM, dubbed the KN-11 by the Pentagon, includes a land-based test of a submarine ejector launcher, conducted at Sinpo on North Korea’s east coast this past November. An actual KN-11 flight test took place on January 23, with the missile being fired from an offshore platform, not an actual submarine.
The KN-11 represents a great potential propaganda and deterrent value for North Korea. If further developed, it could form a leg of the nuclear triad. Strategically speaking, the nuclear triad consists of three nuclear delivery systems: strategic bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and SLBMs. The purpose of this triad is to strengthen deterrence by ensuring that a country has diverse enough methods to retaliate with should it be the target of an attack. That is to say, even if a hypothetical enemy has devised a way to mitigate ICBMs or long-range bombers, one could still fire back with their subs. While North Korea does not have much in the way of strategic bombers, its efforts to develop ICBMs are well-known.
SLBMs also offer an advantage in that they are much more difficult to track than land-based missiles or bombers, which lends them an increased survivability and deterrent value. Additionally, the range of an SLBM is added to by the range of the sub carrying it, which would enable the North to strike targets that would normally be out of range, including U.S. military installations throughout the Pacific.
An effective SLBM would present a propaganda victory for the North Korean government. Such a weapon could also fulfill a frequently recurring theme in North Korean propaganda: the ability to strike distant U.S. targets. The missile could also be sold to the public as an effective deterrent against perceived U.S. and South Korean aggression.
Although the exact specifications of the KN-11 are unknown, it could possibly be a modified version of a Scud, like the early Soviet SLBMs. While there are several possible directions the North could take with their design, they will ultimately be limited by their ability to construct a suitable mechanism for transporting and firing it.
To that end, the missile would presumably be carried by a North Korean submarine. Although it is believed that North Korea does not currently possess a submarine capable of carrying and launching ballistic missiles, various reports of such a sub being under development began to surface last year. It is possible that the North may be modifying, or producing an indigenous submarine containing design elements of, one of the 10 Project 629 Golf-II submarines that it allegedly purchased from Russia in 1993.
That being said, the North could theoretically deploy a sea-launched missile without a missile submarine. As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow Rick Fisher has indicated that the KN-11 could potentially be fired from a military or commercial surface vessel. While surface vessels would be much easier to track than a submarine, they could still pose a significant threat.
It should be reiterated that both the KN-11 and the reported missile submarine are likely in the very early stages of development. While it could be several years, if ever, until a viable missile-submarine combination is produced, it is a development that bears consideration and continued observation. – NK News

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