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Expert: DPRK’s latest missile can reach any part of Japan

  • October 3, 2019
  • , Sankei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

By former Vice Admiral Toshiyuki Ito


A comprehensive assessment of the latest ballistic missile fired by the DPRK indicates it is a “Pukguksong” (Pole Star) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). North Korea probably used a “cold-launch” method, which uses an underwater launch pad (and propels the missile out of the launch canister into the air before the engines ignite). The missile flew at a higher altitude than the previous one. On a normal trajectory, it could likely fly from 2,000 to 3,000 km. The missile was capable of reaching any part of Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump condones North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles, but the missile launched this time was a medium-range one. This must have upset the U.S. Forces in Japan.  


The latest missile was different from the “Pukguksong” launched last time, as it reportedly split into two while in flight. It may have fallen apart when making a reentry into the atmosphere, but it could have been a multi-stage ballistic missile, which detaches multiple rocket engines. The two parts hit the water at different times, so it may have been a two-stage missile. Judging from a sketch that appeared in a photo in the August 2017 bulletin of the Workers’ Party of Korea, it may have been a “Pukguksong 3.”


North Korea’s submarine technology is still low level. The North is reportedly building a submarine capable of carrying and operating the “Pukguksong,” but the vessel has not set sail yet. The DPRK probably imported an outdated submarine from the former Soviet Union and is patchworking together a new one based on it. I used to work on a submarine, but I would never want to be aboard that ship. North Korea does not yet have the capability to operate an SLBM on a submarine yet.   

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