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Japan analyzing level of threat from N. Korea SLBMs

  • October 6, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 8:31 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Oct. 6 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Defense Ministry is analyzing in cooperation with the U.S. military how much of a threat North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missiles may pose.

North Korea claims to have succeeded in test-firing a new-type SLBM, the Pukguksong-3, apparently talking about a projectile launched Wednesday by the country that fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

SLBMs would present a significant threat if deployed. But the ministry believes it will take time before the sophisticated missiles are loaded into a submarine that can be used in war operations.

According to ministry and other sources, North Korea own outdated diesel submarines acquired from China and the defunct Soviet Union.

When North Korea fired SLBMs in 2016, the country is believed to have used a 1,500-ton submarine renovated from one obtained from the Soviet Union.

Pyongyang is reportedly building a larger submarine capable of launching SLBMs. But a senior ministry official says, “We have no information that any new submarine has been launched.”

The latest SLBM may have been fired from a launcher placed undersea.

Pukguksong SLBMs are about 10 meters tall. SLBMs need to stand erect when loaded into a submarine.

The United States has the Ohio-class ballistic missile-capable nuclear submarines, which are 170 meters long and have a displacement of 19,000 tons.

Their length is about double that of Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force submarines, and their displacement more than six times.

“A submarine requires sophisticated construction techniques, including those to weld together steel materials that can withstand strong water pressure,” an SDF executive says.

“A big vessel needs a lot of power. Operations require deep knowledge of undersea terrain,” the executive continues.

“I guess North Korea, which has outdated submarines, needs a substantial amount of time to start operations” of a ballistic missile-capable submarine, according to the executive.

If such a submarine is deployed, North Korea would be able to carry out a surprise attack on Japan from waters near the country with short-range missiles.

Even worse, North Korea would be able to maintain the capability to hit back even if it takes the first strike.

“If such a submarine is deployed, Japan and the United States will conduct intensive surveillance using their submarines and patrol aircraft,” a Japanese government source says.

It would be relatively easy to see whether such a submarine has left port through satellite-based surveillance, informed sources say.

Under the Sea of Japan, sounds of a submarine are relatively easy to hear in many areas because of the water depths and temperatures, according to the sources.

But it would be difficult to detect such sounds if submarines stay inside North Korea’s territorial waters, say the sources.

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