A top American intelligence expert is warning that North Korea may be planning its first submarine-based ballstic missile tests, based on new satellite imagery of the reclusive country’s Sinpo South Shipyard and Mayang-do Submarine Base.
The pictures, along with analysis of what Dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime appears to be up to, were released on Friday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies website, “Beyond Parallel.”
The team of intelligence experts, led by Dr. Victor Cha, described what appear to be new activities at Sinpo and Mayang-do, including the construction of a “submersible test stand barge” designed specifically for a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and an extra submarine floating offshore.
“This looks like they are certainly preparing to do an SLBM test for the first time,” Cha told NBC News of the “unusually clear” photographs on Friday. “Kim Jong Un has been talking about unveiling a new strategic weapon and this may be it. There’s been a lot of activity around this one site where the test barge is located.”
Beyond Parallel emphasized in its report that the images are “not conclusive” that North Korea is readying a demonstration of increased military capability, however, “the pictures might indicate the highly-speculated ‘October surprise,’ which would be consistent with Beyond Parallel historical data that shows heightened provocations around U.S. presidential election years,” Cha warned.
“A satellite image of the Sinpo South Shipyard acquired on September 4, 2020 shows some activity within the secure boat basin that is suggestive, but not conclusive, of preparations for an upcoming test of a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the submersible test stand barge based here,” Beyond Parallel said. “Such a forthcoming test would support escalating speculation that North Korea has been making advances in both ballistic missile and SLBM development during the past year and plans to demonstrate these new capabilities around the time of either its national Foundation Day on September 9th or the Korean Workers’ Party Foundation Day on October 10th.”
Additionally, Beyond Parellel noted, “there are no visible indications in the imagery that the highly anticipated “newly built submarine”—North Korea’s first true ballistic missile submarine—has been launched.”
Satellite surveillance of a second site, the Mayang-do Submarine Base, further hints that Kim may be looking to flex some new combat muscle.
“Also observed in the September 4, 2020 image are two ROMEO-class submarines (SS) anchored within the bay of the submarine base on Mayang-do. While a single ROMEO submarine is occasionally seen here, it is very unusual that two have been observed anchored in the bay,” Beyond Parellel explained. “While the most likely reason for their presence is that they are exercising as part of the annual summer training cycle, preparations to observe a forthcoming SLBM test should not be ruled out at this time.”
Cha’s warnings also stem from the recent strain that the bizarre and often provocative relationship between Kim and President Donald Trump has experienced since their pointless propaganda summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2019.
“A sea-launched missile test would definitely cross all of President Trump’s red lines because it would involve a major ballistic missile,” Cha said. “It would be difficult for President Trump to ignore this.”
“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said afterward during a news conference. “This was just one of those times.”
Nevertheless, last month, the Trump Administration said it still remains keen on maintaining diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, despite Kim’s refusal to resume denuclearization talks with the United States and South Korea.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.