North Korea said it test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile in May, an announcement that drew initial skepticism. On Thursday, an analyst said North Korea’s SLBM program was underway at Sinpo South Shipyard on the east coast of the peninsula. Photo by KCNA/Yonhap
SEOUL, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missile is being developed at a shipyard where a launch "superstructure" is being built for tests.
Satellite images from Sept. 21 analyzed on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, indicated North Korea's SLBM program was underway at Sinpo South Shipyard on the east coast of the peninsula.
The temporary superstructure shown in the images would be used to conduct tests of the stabilization and fire-control systems, and for "pop-up" ejection tests of the vertical launching system, according to analyst Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Bermudez wrote the images of North Korea's SLBM development could account for a CNN report that U.S. officials had reasons to believe North Korea is due to test a SLBM in the near future.
Details from the satellite images indicated the SINPO-class submarine and a test stand for underwater use were moored within the area. While little to no activity could be detected, the submarine was shown as facing south, a change in direction since May 2015 when it was seen facing north. Bermudez wrote the change could be an indication the submarine had been out to sea between May and September.
North Korea has been making progress at other levels at the Sinpo Shipyard. Construction halls and machine shops have been updated since June 2014, and the changes serve as proof North Korea is on the brink of launching a new program, according to Bermudez.
The analyst wrote North Korea is likely to begin building new submarines in the next 12-24 months.