Satellite images released by the South Korean military on Wednesday suggest Pyongyang has completed construction of a specialized shipyard dedicated to constructing a new class of ballistic-missile-ready submarines, increasing the threat that the North Korean dictatorship could deploy a nuclear strike on the US mainland.
Analysts claim that submarine-launched ballistic missile capabilities for North Korea would, if true, be an alarming advance. The advanced SLBM technology that the country seeks to develop would enable it to rapidly deploy long-range nuclear missiles toward the US mainland.
The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University expressed concern on Wednesday, observing that North Korea has "made progress" toward carrying out their militaristic ambitions.
The development comes 10-days after North Korea failed an SLBM test in the Sea of Japan from a GORAE-class submarine. The test missile traveled just 19 miles before plunging into the water, eliciting mockery from Seoul and Washington.
Nonetheless, the US-Korea Institute cautions against downplaying the progress of nuclear weapons development by the isolated dictatorship. "The test was probably intended to be limited, focusing upon the submarine’s launch systems, missile ignition sequence and initial guidance operations rather than a full operation test," the think-tank said, predicting further 'limited' launches before a "full range" test.
The institute claims that the new shipyard would enable the desperately impoverished country, subject to far-reaching global economic sanctions, to potentially "build and launch submarines much larger than the GORAE-class."
Defense analysts previously predicted that a North Korean SLBM submarine would not become fully operational before 2020, but Wednesday’s findings could shorten that projected timeline.
South Korean defense minister Han Min-Koo warned Seoul lawmakers that "I don’t think there’s much time left for us to come up with means to cope with the threat of North Korean SLBMs."