North Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile today, the South Korean defence ministry has said, in a move that has been condemned by the United Kingdom and U.S. The US Strategic Command also reported that the US military have detected the possible missile launch from the North Korean submarine.
But a missile defense system is just one element of the arsenal that should be employed to counter North Korea’s activities, say observers, and there is no guarantee that THAAD itself will even be deployed, such is China’s mistrust of its goal, concerned that the system could just as easily be used to thwart its own capabilities.
A successful test from a submarine would be a worrying development because mastering the ability to fire missiles from submerged vessels would make it harder for outsiders to detect what North Korea is doing before it launches, giving it the potential to surprise its enemies.
While the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile only remained airborne for 30 kilometers (18.6 miles), according to the Yonhap News Agency, they also said they were “keeping close tabs on the North Korean military while maintaining [their] readiness posture”.
“We have seen the reports that North Korea launched what appeared to be a ballistic missile from a submarine in the Sea of Japan”, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under United Nations sanctions dating back to 2006 and most recently adopted in March but it has pushed ahead with work to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and develop an ICBM.
The six-party talks, which involve South Korea, North Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan, have been stalled since late 2008.
The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says latest provocation shows North Korea’s disregard for its worldwide obligations.
In May, North Korea said it had successfully tested such a missile, releasing photos that appeared to show Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, watching a missile soar out of the water.
North Korea is already subjected to global sanctions following a previous nuclear test and launch of a long-range rocket earlier this year. They say the North could be making efforts to promote military accomplishments to its people to make up for a lack of tangible economic achievements ahead of the Workers’ Party congress, the first since 1980.