North Korea’s Nuclear Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile May Be Years Away

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North Korea’s militaristic rhetoric may be strong, and declarations of offensive technological supremacy are rife, but meaningful results are years away, according to analysts.

South Korea’s news agencies reported of the North developing an advanced, radar evading, nuclear submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) system. But several US analysts say North Korea is years away from developing such a system fully, and will need a 3,000-ton sub that it does not have.

RAND Corp’s Bruce Bennett said North Korea would require dozens of tests before its SLBMs could be operational. Testing could take five to ten years, he added.

Joseph S. Bermudez, formerly an analyst for the US Department of Defence, said that even in the case all the North’s tests are successful, two to five years will pass before the strategy pays off.

The success of North Korea’s testing is far from guaranteed. North Korea’s first submarine capable of firing SLBMs was damaged in testing last month, according to US Defence officials.

North Korea’s submarine fleet may not be up to scratch, either. South Korea has said the North’s fleet includes the 130-ton Salmon class, the 325-ton Shark class, the 1,800 Romeo class, and the new 2,000-ton Shinpo class.

For the latest tests, North Korea used its Shinpo class submarine. It is believed the submarine was redesigned from several Soviet era Golf II ballistic missile submarines, obtained as scrap in the 1990s.

North Korea has been aiming to develop a fully fledged nuclear weapons programme for years, and declared in 2009 it has succeeded in developing a nuclear bomb. So far, it has failed to develop a nuclear-payload delivery missile.