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North Korea SLBM-related activities draw reaction from South

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday Seoul is closely monitoring related trends pertaining to activity at Sinpho or Sinpo Shipyard in North Korea. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday Seoul is "closely monitoring related trends" pertaining to activity at Sinpho or Sinpo Shipyard in North Korea. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

April 12 (UPI) -- North Korean activities at a shipyard could be raising concerns about a potential test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile in Seoul.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Kim Joon-rak said Monday at a regular press briefing that the country's military is "closely monitoring related trends" pertaining to activity at Sinpho or Sinpo Shipyard, under "close cooperation" with U.S. intelligence authorities, Newsis reported.

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Kim's statement comes after U.S. analysts said on 38 North that commercial satellite images taken on Saturday show changes to the submersible missile test stand barge at the North Korean shipyard.

"The purpose of moving the floating dry dock and submersible test barge to the construction hall quay in recent weeks has been unclear," analysts Peter Makowsky, Jenny Town and Jack Liu said.

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"Possibilities include preparations to roll out a new ballistic missile submarine, modifications to the test barge for larger SLBMs, early preparations for an SLBM test, or general maintenance."

North Korea tested short-range missiles in March. The provocations were condemned in Seoul, where President Moon Jae-in has stressed diplomacy despite signs Pyongyang is not interested in returning to talks.

State media in North Korea is focusing on preparations for the 109th birth anniversary of former leader Kim Il Sung.

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Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Monday movie theaters across North Korea were screening films highlighting the former leader's achievements. The opening ceremony for the week of film screenings was held in Pyongyang and was attended by "workers, creators and artists," the Rodong said.

The newspaper also reported North Korea began to hold sports tournaments at Kim Il Sung Stadium and other venues on Monday. The matches for students competing in soccer, volleyball, table tennis and tug-of-war are to be held through Thursday, Kim's birth anniversary, state media said.

On Monday North Korea's KCNA released photos of a concert in Pyongyang held for party cell leaders. The orchestra and singers were seen on stage without facemasks and sitting in close proximity to each other.

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Pyongyang has claimed there are zero cases of COVID-19 in the country.

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