Concern is rising in South Korea that North Korea could test a submarine-launched ballistic missile around October. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE
Sept. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea's joint chiefs of staff chair nominee confirmed there is a possibility North Korea could test a submarine-launched ballistic missile on the occasion of a major anniversary in October.
Gen. Won In-choul, Seoul's Air Force chief of staff, said Wednesday during a personnel hearing the military is monitoring North Korea because of a potential SLBM launch, Yonhap reported. On Oct. 10, North Korea is to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party.
Won said there is evidence the North Koreans are engaging in cleanup at Sinpo Shipyard in the aftermath of a recent typhoon. Once recovery is complete, North Korea could turn to military activities, the South Korean official said.
Won also said there is insufficient evidence to conclude North Korea has long-range missiles, capable of reaching the continental United States that have demonstrated successful atmospheric re-entry.
Won's statement to South Korean lawmakers comes after U.S. analysts published to 38 North satellite images indicating renewed activity at the shipyard.
Changes include the repositioning of the SINPO-class or "Whale" class submarine, "usually berthed under protective awning" but "now positioned further north along the quay wall with its stern fully exposed."
A submersible test barge on site has also moved, and it is unclear whether an object berthed ahead of the SINPO-class submarine is the barge, according to analysts Peter Makowsky and Jack Liu.
"The barge's whereabouts may signal an impending SLBM test, although conducting such a launch on the heels of a destructive typhoon seems unlikely," the analysts said.
On Wednesday, Won addressed the issue of North Korean artillery along the western maritime border between the two Koreas. South Korea is prepared to increase the number of Apache helicopters and artillery in the West Sea, or Yellow Sea, if the "threat of enemy provocation increases."
The South Korean official said the United States and South Korea have discussed the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy. Seoul is seeking ways to work within the strategy while increasing cooperation with participants like India, Won said, according to Yonhap.