Former deputy secretary general of the IAEA “North Korea’s progress in submarine construction… Threats to defense systems in the region”

While the situation at North Korea’s Sinpo Shipyard which is preparing to launch a new submarine is on hold, it has been found that submarine construction activities are also continuing here. There is growing concern that North Korea’s submarine capabilities, which will have a major impact on the US and South Korea’s missile defense systems, are gradually improving. Reporter Cho Sang-jin reports.

Oli Heinonen, a special researcher at the Stimson Centre, who served as deputy secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), pointed out that a building near the wharf at the Sinpo Shipyard had recently been operational.

In a phone call with VOA on the 23rd, Investigator Heinonen revealed that the amount of traffic on the site, which had not seen much traffic during the past year, had recently increased again.

He also analyzed that “several buildings near a large site are places where submarine parts are produced, and they need metal and tools for the process,” he said.

[녹취: 올리 하이노넨 특별연구원] “The buildings next to the wide area there are several buildings. So this is where the submarine parts are manufactured. And those parts when they’re there, they need supplies, they need PCs or metal, and they may need additional equipment. And this can be signs that they are getting close to moving forward with what they are manufacturing. “

Earlier, the United States North Korean media ’38 North’ diagnosis that North Korea seems to be preparing to launch a new submarine, saying that six ships, including boats, gathered around the construction of the Sinpo Shipyard on the 21st.

According to the analysis, in the ship launch wharf connected to the building building, the railway and the towing facilities necessary for boats to drag the submarine into the sea also appeared in the image satellite

38 North found that preparations for the launch of the new submarine are likely to be in their early days.

The researcher Heinonen, who participated in the preparation of the report, was concerned that North Korea would weaken its nuclear defense capabilities in the region if North Korea acquired the technology to carry submarine-launched ballistic missiles ( SLBMs) ​​that can carry forward nuclear warheads. new submarines at VOA.

[녹취: 하이노넨 연구원] “Yes, that is true. I think this is a step forward. It makes it more unpredictable, and it will be very difficult for people to detect most likely where they launch it. “

It is explained that it will be a big challenge for ballistic missile defense systems (USA and South Korea) due to the nature of submarines, which are very difficult to predict and find launch locations.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Center for Non-Proliferation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, James Martin, in a telephone call with the VOA, in relation to North Korea’s submarine construction trends, has built a new ballistic missile on a larger scale. submarine (SSB) or Romeo class submarine exposed three years ago Diagnosed as an attempt to further refine it.

[녹취: 제프리 루이스 국장] “One possibility is that it will be a new larger ballistic missile submarine. But another possibility is the modified Romeo we saw them working on three years ago.”

Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the Sinpo Shipyard in July 2019 to inspect a “new submarine.” Based on the photos released at the time, it was noted that this submarine was an improved version of the ‘Romeo’ class (1800 ton class) modified with a missile launch tube.

Lewis explained that North Korea is one step closer to its clear goal of having a nuclear submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, whether it builds an SSB or a modified Romeo-class submarine.

[녹취: 루이스 국장] “This is a capability they have had for a long time. So, it’s an incremental improvement. They are developing to launch ballistic missiles. They are working on modifying their existing submarines. They are developing a nuclear powered submarine. And that, you know, they’ve been clear that that’s their goal in general. And so, it’s consistent with the kinds of statements we’ve seen from Kim Jong Un over the years.”

He also predicted that if North Korea demonstrates its submarine capabilities capable of launching SLBMs with nuclear warheads, it would have a significant impact on the US nuclear defense strategy.

The final step to being recognized as a nuclear weapons state is to have the capability of ‘mutual destruction’, and North Korea has been pushing for the development of strategic submarines equipped with SLBMs, which are the core of this capability. This is because it provides the so-called second strike means to launch a surprise nuclear missile strike.

Meanwhile, Jenny Town, a senior researcher at the Stimson Centre, who took part in the preparation of the recent 38 North report, confirmed that North Korea is likely to be preparing to launch a new submarine, given the type and number of ships and boats caught near the docks. at Sinpo Shipyard.

However, the move is not entirely new, as North Korea has been accused of building new, larger-scale ballistic missile submarines (SSBs) over the past few years.

“With the major construction process seemingly complete, the problem is when the submarines are up and running,” Towne said.

[제니 타운 선임연구원] “The question is – when will it be operational (when will they launch it) as the major construction seems to have stopped. This will improve their ability to field SLBMs, but not significantly in the near future with only one submarine. But it would mark another milestone in the North’s WMD development.”

“Although this launch of submarines will improve SLBM deployment capability, it is difficult to make progress with just one submarine in the near future,” he said.

Director Jeffrey Lewis pointed out that the technical evaluation could vary depending on the type of submarine North Korea intends to build.

[녹취: 루이스 국장] “It’s definitely possible they could be a ballistic missile submarine, but we won’t really know until it surfaces. As for ballistic missile submarine capabilities, it depends on how big the new submarine is how many missiles it carries. It’s really hard to tell because the only thing we’ve ever seen are the big segments for the new submarine outside the hall, so we’ve never actually seen the new submarine. So it’s very difficult to assess his ability now.”

Lewis pointed out that missile payload is important in assessing the capabilities of new SLBM-powered submarines, and will be difficult to understand until the submarine is fully exposed.

This is Cho Sang-jin from VOA News.

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