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Intelligence looking into NK’s submarine missile launch: report

North Korea claims to have tested Pukguksong-3 in waters off Wonsan, Gangwon Province, on Oct. 2, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea claims to have tested Pukguksong-3 in waters off Wonsan, Gangwon Province, on Oct. 2, 2019. (KCNA-Yonhap)

South Korean and US intelligence are closely looking into the possibility of North Korea test-firing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at a military parade in October and showcasing a new intercontinental ballistic missile around November, a local news outlet reported Friday.

The North celebrates the anniversary of its ruling party on Oct. 10 and the US president is voted into office on Nov. 3. The North and the US have yet to agree on denuclearization terms and sanctions relief.

“A new ICBM would be the last bargaining chip, regardless of who gets sworn in as the next American president. At least that’s how we see it,” a military source was quoted as saying, reinforcing speculation Pyongyang prefers a less provocative SLBM to heap pressure on Washington.

If the North unveils a new ICBM, it would be the one that could strike the entire US mainland as the latest missile would come with a solid-fuel rocket engine, which delivers warheads to the target more quickly, the report said.

A new ICBM has yet to be seen but activity involving a rehearsal for the October military parade was picked up by intelligence, the report added.

Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the 28,200-strong US forces stationed here, said Thursday he saw no sign of an imminent provocation.

“People suggesting that perhaps it’ll be a rollout of a new weapon system. Maybe, but we’re not seeing any indications right now any sort of lashing out,” he told a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CSIS said Wednesday satellite images suggested Pyongyang may be preparing to launch a SLBM at its Sinpo South Shipyard along its east coast, though the US think tank described the evidence as inconclusive.

North Korea launched what it claimed was a new SLBM, the Pukguksong-3, Oct. 2 last year, three days before it sat for working-level nuclear talks with the US in Stockholm. The negotiations fell apart due to disagreement over denuclearization conditions and sanctions relief.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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