North Korean analysts are watching for signs that Kim Jong-un is set to unveil new weapons or test firing from a submarine-launched missile in the coming weeks.
Formations of troops trained for what is expected to be a major military parade on October 10, the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Some observers say North Korea could use the Pyongyang Parade to showcase its biggest missiles for the first time since 2018.
Satellite photos also showed a wave of activity at the Sinpo South shipyard where the North is building submarines, including in a secure basin where a barge used in previous submarine launches is moored.
“We are monitoring the developments, because there is a possibility that a ballistic missile test launched by a submarine will be carried out there,” said the new South Korean military leader Won In-choul.
A satellite image shows people gathered in formation near Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, apparently prepared for a large ruling party parade on October 10
Analysts say there has been a wave of activity at the Sinpo South shipyard, where the North is building submarines (pictured earlier this month)
Experts say the push from the North to acquire submarine-launched missiles is a worrying development because they are difficult to detect before they are launched.
A source told the Seoul-based Daily NK website that the shipyard “is full of activities to prepare for the ballistic missile launch,” officials and researchers having arrived since late August.
Dave Schmerler, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said there were signs of work being done on the missile barge.
However, he said the activity would also be compatible with basic repair work after the typhoons that hit the Korean Peninsula earlier this month.
Won, the candidate for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea, said the North could conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test after repairs are completed.
He said the South Korean military was closely following developments in that country, according to written remarks ahead of a confirmation hearing.
38 North, a US-based think tank, said the footage showed “high activity” at the shipyard, but “no other indicators of launch readiness were seen.”
New South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook on Monday said he considered a submarine test unlikely because there was insufficient preparation time.
On September 4, the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said satellite images showed activity in Sinpo that was “suggestive, but inconclusive, of preparations for an upcoming ballistic missile test. launched by a Pukguksong-3 submarine from the submersible test bed. barge.’
The North has not launched intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, a break that Donald Trump hailed as a diplomatic success.
However, North Korea said last October that it had tested a Pukguksong-3, eliciting no major reaction from Trump.
Experts say the North Korean submarine launched missile tests were carried out from a submersible barge with a launch tube, not a full-fledged submarine.
Experts are watching to see if Kim Jong-un (pictured earlier this month) will unveil new weapons in North Korea
In July 2019, Kim inspected a newly built submarine that appeared to be the most sophisticated model in the North with multiple launch tubes.
Jung Changwook, head of the Korea Defense Study Forum in Seoul, said North Korea could conduct a test to improve its nuclear attack capability and put pressure on Washington after the US election in early November.
Jung said a missile fired from the barge would have a potential range of up to 310 miles, posing no direct threat to the Americas.
The nuclear talks between Trump and Kim have made little headway since their second summit collapsed in Vietnam in early 2019.
The summit’s failure was followed by months of angry rhetoric, though hopes were briefly rekindled when Trump made an impromptu visit to the DMZ and met Kim.
Relations with the South are also at a standstill, and Pyongyang blew up a North-South liaison office on its side of the border earlier this year.
Few of the commitments Kim and South President Moon Jae-in signed at their 2018 Pyongyang summit – including joint sports teams and an Olympic bid, work on transport links, and Kim’s visit to Seoul – came to fruition.
The North is now grappling with multiple crises, including damage caused by the typhoon, the coronavirus pandemic that led to the closure of its border with China and severe US sanctions.
But Seoul Unification Minister Lee In-young said this week: “I hope that the channels of communication, including the inter-Korean liaison office, can be restored and we can resume an open dialogue. ‘mind at an early date. “