North Korea tests ‘submarine-launched missile’ ahead of nuclear talks with US

People watch a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on October 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

North Korea tests ‘submarine-launched missile’ ahead of nuclear talks with US

  • It was the 11th test-launch of missiles and rockets this year by the reclusive east Asian state
  • The missile was launched a day after Pyongyang announced it would return to the negotiating table with the US to discuss its nuclear disarmament plans

SEOUL: North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a missile from waters off its east coast just hours after agreeing to resume nuclear talks with the US.

It was the 11th test-launch of missiles and rockets this year by the reclusive east Asian state.

However, the missile was fired at sea, indicating the weapons system could have been a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a development that would pose greater threats to regional stability, South Korean defense authorities told Arab News.

The missile was launched a day after Pyongyang announced it would return to the negotiating table with the US to discuss its nuclear disarmament plans.

“The missile is presumed to be an SLBM since it was believed to be fired at sea,” South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told lawmakers during a parliamentary session. “We’re analyzing the details of the missile, which is seen as a variant of the Pukguksong SLBM.”

The Pukguksong is currently under development in North Korea with the first version of the SLBM tested three times in 2016. So far, the North is believed to have developed two versions with a maximum flight range of around 1,300 kilometers.

Last July, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a newly built submarine presumed to have three missile launch tubes that could fire SLBMs.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the latest missile was fired from off the east coast near to the city of Wonsan into the sea at 7:11 a.m. and flew around 450 kilometers at a maximum altitude of some 910 kilometers.

It is not clear whether the missile was launched from a submarine, a ship, or a platform on the water.

Along with its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), North Korea’s SLBM program is considered one of the biggest threats to the US and its Asian allies due to its radar-evading characteristics.

“Submarine-launched missiles are hard to detect in advance before they emerge from the water,” Kim Dae-young, a weapons analyst at the Korean Research Institute for National Strategy, told Arab News. “With the SLBM, North Korea could extend the range of its nuclear arsenal.”

Experts say the latest version of the Pukguksong is expected to have a firing range of 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers, which could reach western parts of the US continent as well as Hawaii.

“The latest missile was fired at a high angle, and if it had been fired at a normal angle, it would have flown up to 2,000 kilometers,” said Kim Dong-yup, a professor at South Korean Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute.

The presidential National Security Council (NSC) expressed “strong concern” about the SLBM test that could compromise efforts to revive the denuclearization talks that have been stalled for a year.

“The NSC members expressed strong concern about the latest missile launch ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks between the US and North Korea,” Seoul’s presidential office, the Blue House, said in a statement. “We’re in close consultation with the US over the motive and background of North Korea.”

On Tuesday, North Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui said Pyongyang and Washington had agreed to resume working-level discussions on Saturday, according to a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, with the two sides having “preliminary contact” the day before. The time and venue have yet to be disclosed.

The denuclearization talks have so far failed to yield fruit, mainly due to disagreements over sanctions on the communist state. North Korea has demanded they be lifted step by step in return for its disarmament efforts, while the US insisted sanctions remained in place until all denuclearization was completed.

“It seems that the North sends a clear message that it would keep modernizing its weapons systems, especially as long as the US keeps the sanction regime against the North,” said Prof. Kim. “I wonder if (US) President (Donald) Trump would devalue the SLBM test, too, in spite of the missile’s greater threat to the US.”

Some government sources believe the SLBM test could be a response to the deployment of F-35 stealth fighters in South Korea.

On Tuesday, the flight of F-35 jets for the South Korean Air Force were made public for the first time to mark the 71st Armed Forces Day.

The North has been sensitive about F-35 deployment in the South due to the US aircraft’s stealth features that can penetrate into enemy areas without detection.

South Korea plans to acquire 40 F-35A jets, built by Lockheed Martin, with a plan for 20 more additional orders.

 

 


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.