Kim Jong Un, left, could have observed the Saturday launch of a SLBM off the eastern coast of North Korea, Seoul said on Monday. Shown here is a screenshot from a heavily edited video with North Korea claiming a successful missile test in May. File Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- It is highly likely Kim Jong Un was present at the most recent launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine near Wonsan, North Korea – deemed a failure only because South Korea military could not trace the missile, Seoul intelligence said Monday.
The SLBM, captured on South Korea surveillance Saturday, was launched near the North Korean port city, and there is a "high probability" Kim was in the area on Thursday and Friday to prepare for the send-off, said South Korean lawmaker Joo Ho-young, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee, YTN reported.
Photos of Kim taken on Friday showed the North Korean leader providing field guidance at a shoe factory in Wonsan – which increases the possibility he then attended the SLBM launch, South Korea press reported.
But the fate of the launch is unclear, according to National Intelligence Service Chief Lee Byung-ho on Monday.
"North Korea launched a SLBM at 2 p.m. on Nov. 28 off the coast of Wonsan, in Gangwon province, but because it could not be traced by [South Korea] military surveillance, we determined it was a failure," Lee had said, according to Joo.
South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported the SLBM launch would be North Korea's second attempt in 2015. In May, Pyongyang announced a launch, but many analysts agreed the mission was not successful.
North Korea has taken an interest in SLBM capabilities since the mid-'90s. South Korea has said North Korea's fleet of submarines includes the 1,800-ton Romeo class submarine, the 325-ton Shark class, the 130-ton Salmon class and the new Shinpo-class submarine weighing 2,000 tons. A report issued by Korea National Defense University's Research Institute for National Security Affairs has stated loading SLBMs on a Romeo-class submarine faces technical challenges, but if North Korea reverse-engineers a Golf-class submarine, that issue could be resolved for Pyongyang.
North Korea's SLBM development could be a topic of discussion at a meeting of six-party talks senior representatives in Washington, D.C., in December.
South Korean outlet Newsis reported the meeting is to involve the representatives of the United States, Japan and South Korea, and on Monday North Korea denounced the meeting, calling it a South Korean "betrayal."