Seoul, Mar 31 (EFE).- A group of experts has detected activity at North Korea’s primary submarine shipyard in satellite images taken amid Pyongyang’s ongoing weapons testing.
The eight images, taken between Feb. 16 and Mar. 27, show “unusual movement” of an experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) used by Pyongyang to test submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) at the Sinpo South Shipyard on the country’s northeastern coast, specialized website Beyond Parallel said Wednesday.
Particularly striking is an image captured on Mar. 22 in which the 8.24 Yongung SSBA is seen being pulled out from underneath the canopy by a small tug.
“An image collected the following day, March 23, shows the status of the secure boat basin similar to that of early-March status with the 8.24 Yongung SSBA — presumed to be under the canopy, the submersible missile test stand (with small harbor tug tied up alongside) berthed along the south pier, and the infiltration mothership alongside the dock,” the website said.
“The fact that the small harbor tug is now tied up alongside the submersible missile test stand suggests that the tug may again be used to assist with the movement of the 8.24 Yongung SSBA in the near future,” it added.
North Korea uses the 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero in Korean in honor of the date in 2016 when the first North Korean SLBM was successfully tested) to conduct submarine-launched ballistic missile tests.
“The exact purpose for moving the submarine is unknown, but it is likely related to ongoing modifications, continued repair work, preparations for an upcoming submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, a component of a strategic deception plan, or a combination of these and other reasons,” according to the analysis.
The analyst community is especially vigilant these days given the number of missile tests North Korea has conducted so far this year, including last week’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017.
Satellite images have also indicated activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, suggesting that the regime could soon detonate a nuclear bomb for the first time in five years.
Experts also believe that Pyongyang plans to test a space rocket to deploy reconnaissance satellites and SLBM missiles in the future, specifically the Pukguksong-4 and Pukguksong-5, which have been exhibited but not tested so far.
North Korea, which remains totally cut-off due to the coronavirus pandemic with no sign of opening up to the outside world soon, approved a five-year military modernization plan in January 2021, which is behind these latest tests. EFE