Seoul, Apr 12 (EFE).- South Korea’s military said Monday that it is monitoring the Sinpo shipyard on the east coast of North Korea amid movement detected in recent days that could indicate preparations for a new weapons launch.
The shipyard is used to develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).
“Our military has been closely tracking and monitoring North Korea’s military moves, while the South Korean and the US intelligence authorities have been maintaining close cooperation,” Joint Chief of Staffs (JCS) spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said at a regular press briefing.
“Keeping various possibilities in mind, we maintain a readiness posture,” he added, according to local news agency Yonhap.
In recent days, satellite images of Sinpo have shown a submersible test barge, used in the at-sea testing of the Pukguksong SLBM, has been brought into a dry dock.
The latest images, from Apr. 10, seem to indicate that the submersible missile test barge’s missile canister has likely been removed, according to the analysis carried out by 38 North, a United States-based think tank focused on North Korea.
The reason for the removal could be “for maintenance or for replacement with a new canister or launch frame to accommodate larger submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” according to the think tank.
During the congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had warned the US that if it did not propose new alternatives to resume dialog on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the easing of sanctions – stalled since 2019 – Pyongyang would carry out new weapons tests.
Among the list of military assets being developed, Kim mentioned the new submarine that North Korea has been designing and which analysts have dubbed Sinpo-C.
The Sinpo-C, first images of which were published by North Korean media in 2019 coinciding with Kim’s visit to the Sinpo shipyard, is an improved and larger version of the original Sinpo submarine, which North Korea calls “Gorae” (whale) and with which it successfully tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-1, in 2016.
The Sinpo-C is believed to weigh around 3,000 tonnes, be nuclear-powered and capable of carrying three to four SLBMs (the original Sinpo can only carry one).
Many analysts suspect that the submersible missile test barge is being modified to test a new type of SLBM for the Sinpo-C.
After several months without conducting weapons tests, Pyongyang carried out two missile launches in late March, a time marked by Washington’s review of its strategy in dealing with Pyongyang. EFE