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Expert: Worst-case scenario is integration of two Koreas’ technologies

By former Air Self-Defense Force General Kunio Orita


North Korea has long been developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and the experimental stage will continue for some time. The North’s new-type submarine is believed to be in the 3,000-ton class. But a 5,000-ton class submarine is needed at a minimum to carry a SLBM. Submarines carrying Chinese and Russian strategic missiles tend to have a swollen hull. But the North’s submarine does not have such a feature.


Having said that, it is undeniable that the North’s technology has advanced. Solid fuel is used to fire a SLBM, but the technology [for solid fuel] can also be applied to ground-based missile launches. Solid fuel-powered missiles are hard to deal with because, unlike liquid fuel-powered missiles, they can be fired immediately if the fuel is injected in advance. Of course, things will be more complicated if Pyongyang comes to have a submarine in the 5,000-ton class or larger in the future. Anti-submarine warfare will not be so difficult because waters near North Korea are shallow. If the nation becomes capable of operating SLBMs, however, it will have greater political influence over its neighbors.


The worst-case scenario is the integration of the South’s and the North’s technologies as a result of the unification of the two Koreas. South Korea has already launched a large submarine. If the North mounts a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on the submarine, Japan will be their target. We particularly need to pay close attention to the Moon government’s policy of “cozying up” to North Korea.

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