Pacific News Minute: North Korea Test Fires New Submarine Launched Missile

Oct 3, 2019

Ahead of the resumption of  denuclearization talks between North Korea and The United States this weekend, North Korea test-fired a new submarine launched missile yesterday.

President Trump has shrugged off North Korea’s tests of short range missiles, but yesterday’s launch will be harder to dismiss.

The Pukguksong Three was reportedly cold-launched from an underwater platform, not a submarine, but that still represents a significant achievement. “Cold-launched” means the missile is sealed inside a capsule, which is ejected from a tube by pressurized gas. Once it’s clear of the water, the capsule housing falls away and solid fueled engines take over.

The two-stage missile reached an altitude of 565 miles and then fell into the Sea of Japan 280 miles down range. That calculates to a range of 1200 miles if fired at a standard trajectory. That puts all of South Korea and Japan within range. North Korea is believed to have one submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles, but that sub is also believed to be old and so noisy that it should be tracked easily.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the test “very concerning” and yet another violation of Security Council sanctions.

A number of commentators noted that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was not on hand to watch the test – Kim had attended the debut of every other new North Korean missile. And, by coincidence, the U.S. test fired a missile yesterday too – an unarmed Minuteman 3 that lifted off at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and sent a test warhead into Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles down range.