MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) – North Korea could be developing a new vertical launching system for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), a South Korean Defense Ministry official said Monday.
“Based on recent US and South Korean intelligence, we have detected signs of North Korea developing a vertical missile launch tube for submarines” the official was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse .
At the same time South Korean Defense Ministry representative Kim Min-seok said at a press conference Monday that the ministry could not confirm whether the DPRK had an operational SLBM system.
“There is no confirmed information yet that a North Korean submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles is in operation,” Min-seok said.
According to data compiled by Global Firepower (GFP), the DPRK in ranked first in the world by submarine strength with a total of 78, surpassing the United States, China and Russia in 2014. However, the North Korean submarines are mostly obsolete Soviet and Chinese vessels.
The possibility of mounting a vertical launching system for SLBMs could significantly strengthen the DPRK Navy’s capabilities, as North Korea has been able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for use on a ballistic missile, the US Defense Intelligence Agency stated in April 2013.
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and conducted a series of underground nuclear weapon tests in the following years. Pyongyang’s nuclear program has triggered mass protests from the international community, including demands for the nation to return to the so-called six-party negotiations, comprising North and South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and Japan, on the reduction of its nuclear activities.