North Korea Appears To Make Progress In Developing Missile-Launching Submarine; This Development, And China’s Actions With Respect To The Disputed Island Chain — Likely To Set Stage For New Japanese Military Policy With Respect To Aiding Their Allies When Circumstances Warrant

North Korea Appears To Make Progress In Developing Missile-Launching Submarine; This Development, And China’s Actions With Respect To The Disputed Island Chain — Likely To Set Stage For New Japanese Military Policy With Respect To Aiding Their Allies When Circumstances Warrant

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Rick Gladstone, writing on this evening’s New York Times website, notes that “North Korea has displayed its cyber attack capabilities, and advances towards making [and miniaturizing] nuclear warheads,” the country’s adversaries say. A report issued by the website — 38-North — a prominent research group who focuses on North Korea — said commercial satellite imagery of a North Korean submarine taken less than a month ago, indicates the vessel may have one, or two vertical launching tubes, for either ballistic, or cruise missiles.”

“The submarine, first seen last July, could be an experimental test-bed for underwater missile launching, which would be harder to detect than land-based launchers,” the report said. Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and arms expert and authority on North Korea’s defense capabilities is the author of the report. Mr. Bermudez cautioned that “North Korea is not believed to [currently] have the ability to launch missiles from submarines. Moreover,” he added, an effort by Pyongyang to develop an operational, missile-carrying submarine, — would be an expensive, and time-consuming endeavor, with no guarantee of success.”

“Nonetheless,” Mr. Bermudez wrote, “North Korea’s development of a submarine-launched missile capability would eventually expand Pyongyang’s threat to South Korea, Japan, and U.S. bases in East Asia, also complicating regional missile defense planning, development, and operations.”

“Reports of North Korea’s apparent quest to develop a submarine-launched missile capability, are not new,” Mr. Gladstone observes, as Mr. Bermudez said last year that “North Korea appeared to have built a ground-based test area at its Sinpo South shipyard on the east coast to research and develop single-stage, liquid-propellant missiles fired from a submarine.” Mr. Gladstone add that “a report in the South Korean press last November, quoted unidentified government and military sources as saying the North had modified a Russian-built, diesel-powered submarine to make it capable of firing a single-stage missile range of about 880 miles. But, the report said the North had not yet developed the technology needed for the missiles.”

Mr. Bermudez’s report today, “included previously unseen satellite images, dated in mid-December, that showed an opening in a North Korean submarine’s conning tower that had been obscured in images taken earlier — of the same vessel,” Mr. Gladstone noted. “If South Korean reports of North Korea’s submarine capabilities are accurate,” Mr. Bermudez wrote, “the new imagery suggests the possibility of 1-2 small, vertical missile launch tubes.”

This report of North Korea advancing its submarine warfare capabilities, follows a report earlier this week by South Korea’s Defense Ministry, that North Korea “appeared to have made a significant “advance” toward perfecting a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a long-range missile that could reach the American West Coast. The ministry also suggested the North possessed a missile that could fly that far.”

“North Korea is estimated to possess at least 48 submarines, including 10 midget vessels,” according to a report last year by the news service of The U.S. Naval Institute, versus a fleet of 18 submarines in the South Korean Navy — all conventionally powered.”

This report, along with China’s actions with respect to the disputed island chain in the South China Sea, are setting the stage for Japanese leader Shinzo Abe to get new legislation passed this year — allowing Japan’s Self-Defense Force to militarily come to the defense of their ‘allies.” Something that Abe campaigned on. V/R, RCP

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