- Yonhap reports that test last month appears to have failed
- Pyongyang has threatened nuclear attack against U.S.
North Korea conducted a test-launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine last month after a similar attempt was said to have failed in November, the Free Beacon reported, citing unidentified U.S. defense officials.
The launch was carried out Dec. 21 near the eastern port of Sinpo, the Washington-based website said. South Korea confirmed the test but said it appeared to have failed, Yonhap News reported, citing an unidentified South Korean military official.
A successful launch would indicate that the isolated nation’s underwater missile program hasn’t been derailed, and an operational system could provide Pyongyang with a new option to launch an attack against enemies such as the U.S. One U.S. official was reported by Free Beacon as saying that Kim Jong Un’s government could be as little as a year away being able to fire missiles from a submarine.
The U.S. and South Korea approved a plan to deal with North Korean missiles carrying atomic and biochemical warheads after North Korea made a threat in September to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. Japan is also considering deployment of the U.S.’s Thaad ballistic missile defense system to counter any potential strike from North Korea.
South Korea estimates that North Korea has 2,500 tons to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons. North Korea also possesses an arsenal of missiles that it says can strike the U.S. The country conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and threatened last year to conduct a fourth one. U.S. defense officials have questioned whether North Korea is capable of putting a nuclear warhead onto a missile.
The Pyongyang regime could be preparing to test thermonuclear weapon capabilities at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and may also be producing tritium, a radioactive isotope necessary to build more sophisticated nuclear weapons, Yonhap News reported this month.