North Korea building secret ballistic missile submarine base
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 15, 2016. Credit: Reuters
22 July 2016 • 4:08pm
North Korea is constructing a massive underground facility capable of sheltering ballistic missile submarine at a location on its east coast, new satellite images have shown.
News of the fortified submarine pens in the port city of Sinpo comes as tension spiked again on the Korean Peninsula following a series of recent missile and weapons tests.
Earlier this month North Korea tested a Pukgeukseong (Polaris) submarine-launched ballistic missile
in waters off Sinpo in the Sea of Japan, deepening fears that Pyongyang is moving closer to obtaining a submarine-launched missile capability (SSB).
Factbox | North Korea's Musudan Missile
A ground-launched Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), developed by North Korea, that could deliver a nuclear warhead.
The Musudan is based on the R27 missile, developed by the Soviet Union in 1983.
North Korea is believed to have sold the designs for the Musudan to Iran, which has produced its own variant known as the Shahab-4.
The Musudan's range is anywhere between 1,500 and 2,500 miles, meaning that North Korea could launch a nuclear attack on countries like South Korea, Japan or the US Pacific territory of Guam.
The new images analysed by IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly
appear to show the base with two new 490ft (150m) pens under construction close to the Mayang-do Naval Base, near Sinpo.
“The massive investment North Korea is making into building the new submarine bunker at Sinpo suggests it will be used to protect its most prized naval asset – the SSB capability it is currently developing,” wrote Jane’s analysts.
Given that the pens are far bigger than required to house North Korea’s existing 250ft-long Romeo-class submarines, analysts have speculated that the pens are being built to house a new class of ballistic missile submarines still under development.
Currently North Korea has only one SSB, a 220ft (67m) Gorae-class boat that requires the missile to be fired though a launch tube that extends though the vessel’s sail.
In the event of war, it remains doubtful, however, that the new pens would withstand an attack by the 14-tonne deep-penetration GBU-57 “bunker-buster” bomb
that is in service with the US Air Force.
However the pens could make it easier for a future class of North Korean SSB to put to sea undetected, the analysis concluded. “This uncertainty would in turn enhance North Korea’s strategic deterrent if the submarines were believed to be carrying nuclear-armed missiles,” it said.
The details emerged as Pyongyang conducted fresh missile firings on Thursday, only days after test-firing two Scud missiles and one intermediate-range Rodong missile in violation of existing UN resolutions
This uncertainty would in turn enhance North Korea’s strategic deterrentJane's Defence Weekly
The widely-condemned tests - personally monitored by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un - were aimed at simulating possible attacks on South Korean ports and airfields hosting US military targets, the North's state-run media said.
North Korea has threatened "physical action" in response to the recent agreement between Seoul and Washington to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD missile system in South Korea.
The recent missile tests were greeted with anger by activists who launched propaganda balloons
at the South’s heavily-fortified border carrying 300,000 anti-North Korean leaflets.
The launches, which are guaranteed to rile Pyongyang, came as new figures from South Korea estimated that the North’s GDP had contracted at its sharpest rate for eight years on the back of a slump in commodity exports.
A photo provided by the activists showed a banner attached to one of the balloons reading: "All humanity condemns the nuclear-obsessed Kim Jong-un who squeezes the blood of his own people to fire rockets!"
Additional reporting Joe Heritage