Coincidentally, ‘8.24 Yongung’ was the very submarine to test launch North Korea’s first SLBM Pukguksong-1 back in August 2016.
KCNA later released in a statement that “two missiles have hit their designated targets after flying 1,500 km which lasted for 7,563 (2h 6m 3s) and 7,575 (2h 6m 15s) seconds respectively.” It is for the first time ever that North Korea has launched a missile of this type referred to as SLCM (Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile), although the last SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) launch from the submarine was made in May last year.
The state media also added that this launch was meant to show the “determination of heroic soldiers to stand against American imperialists and its puppet South Korea engaging in dangerous military maneuvers targeting Pyongyang.”
This trial launch coincided with the beginning of the large-scale exercise “Freedom Shield” between South Korea and the United States. Ahead of this exercise, South Korea has revealed that it carried out another exercise named “Teak Knife” with USFK (United States Forces Korea) forces which mainly focused on practicing precision strikes on North Korea’s secretive nuclear facilities.
South Korea’s JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) also released a statement earlier this morning that it detected two missile launches near the northeastern coastal city of Sinpo, while declining to release more details about the launch. However, JCS denounced North Korea’s SLCM launch as ‘premature’ and ‘early-stage’, adding that Pyongyang would have exaggerated the significance of such weapon system only to threat its neighboring South and Washington.
It is believed that this trial launch targeted US military bases in Japan, especially the ones in Okinawa, judging by the distance it has travelled. Concerns for this new SLCM are already on the horizon, as it gives North Korea more flexibility in delivering their retaliatory nuclear power to its adversaries when attacked.
While the specification of the missile is yet to be precisely known, the prefix “strategic” implies that it can eventually be equipped with a nuclear warhead.
Experts claim that this launch somehow confirmed North Korea’s formidable will to obtain different launching platforms to fortify its abilities to bypass detections from Seoul, as South Korea still heavily relies on its ally, the U.S., when it comes to missile detection and intelligence. When fully submerged, Sinpo-class submarines can travel relatively long distance and reliably execute precision strikes against strategic US bases in Indo-Pacific region – namely Guam and even Hawaii.
Stay tuned to Naval News for future developments on North Korea’s SLCM program.