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(LEAD) N. Korea employs SLBM tech in new intermediate-range missile: military

2017/02/13 18:04

(ATTN: ADDS background and experts' view throughout)

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Monday that North Korea appears to have employed technologies used in submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to develop a new type of intermediate-range rocket, citing its analysis of a launch test carried out by Pyongyang a day earlier.

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-un likely ordered the task of developing a surface-to-surface Pukguksong-2 missile based on the successful SLBM test carried out in August. We have reached an assessment that the North is in the process of developing a ballistic missile with a greatly extended strike range," an official from Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

Pyongyang called the new missile Pukguksong-2. The SLBM launched in August carried the name Pukguksong-1, a name which translates as the "North Star."

   The remark came after the JCS initially identified the type of missile fired from Bangyon air base in the western province of North Pyongan Province at 7:55 a.m. as a medium-range Rodong or modified Rodong, and then changed their assessment to a modified Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

The missile reached a height of 550 kilometers after being fired at a high angle and flew about 500 km before splashing down into the East Sea.

As the launch was conducted in a "lofted" style, it put the missile into a high trajectory rather than a lower one that would allow it to fly much farther.

It marks the first missile test by the North after Donald Trump became U.S. president on Jan. 20. It appears to be aimed at drawing global attention to the North by boasting its nuclear and missile capabilities and seeing how Trump responds to the test.

In this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) observes the test-firing of a Pukguksong-2 missile through binoculars. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap) In this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) observes the test-firing of a Pukguksong-2 missile through binoculars. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The military also said the new intermediate missile's range may be greater than an SLBM that can fly 2,000-2,500 km, but shorter than a Musudan's 3,000-3,500 km range.

"The new missile is estimated to have a range of 2,500-3,000 km and has a solid-fuel engine," the JCS official said, adding further analysis is necessary to determine whether the missile can be fitted with a nuclear warhead.

Experts viewed the technology-based, solid fuel-powered SLBM as a step forward in the North's nuclear missile programs. A solid fuel-powered engine requires much less fueling time than a conventional liquid-fueled one.

As solid-fuel missiles on mobile launchers are harder to detect before launch by satellite surveillance, they pose a greater threat, they said.

As for Pyongyang's argument that the test verified control and guidance of the missile in mid-flight and the re-entry phase, the military said additional assessment and confirmation is needed.

Under U.N. resolutions, North Korea is barred from any use of ballistic missile technology. Six sets of U.N. sanctions since Pyongyang's first nuclear detonation in 2006 failed to stop the rogue regime's nuclear ambitions. It conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its pursuit of developing a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr

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