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Seoul: North Korea developing sub-launched missile faster than expected

South Korea may not have an adequate response, defense minister Han Min-koo said.

By Elizabeth Shim
Seoul: North Korea developing sub-launched missile faster than expected
North Korea launched a SLBM in late April that traveled 20 miles before exploding in midair, but the launch failure has not deterred Pyongyang, according to Seoul. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL, May 3 (UPI) -- South Korea may not have enough time to respond to an incoming submarine-launched ballistic missile from North Korea, Seoul's defense minister said Tuesday.

Han Min-koo told the National Assembly's defense committee the speed of North Korea SLBM development is raising the threat level and the South hasn't kept up, News 1 reported.

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For this reason, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff and the U.S. Navy are developing and discussing a response plan, Han said.

North Korea launched a SLBM in late April that traveled 20 miles before exploding in midair, and Pyongyang is making "advancements" in its nuclear capabilities, Han said.

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But the defense minister said there isn't sufficient evidence the North has successfully miniaturized nuclear weapons, and that there isn't enough proof that the North's fourth announced nuclear test in January was any more powerful than its third test conducted in 2013.

There isn't conclusive evidence North Korea conducted a hydrogen bomb test in 2016, Han said.

But North Korea's nuclear threat has South Korea on alert.

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Han said during the hearing North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear site is "always ready" for the next test, and the North is keeping its artillery on standby near the Yellow Sea, where the two sides share a disputed maritime border.

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Experts have said the next test is imminent, but Pyongyang might be thinking about the effects of a major move.

The defense ministry said in its statement the North will "decide on a fifth nuclear test after first taking into consideration the impact of additional sanctions and the condition of domestic and foreign affairs," Newsis reported.

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But other provocations at the demilitarized zone and at sea are possible, the ministry said.

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