North Korea claims successful firing of ballistic missile from submarine.

North Korea Claims Successful Firing of Ballistic Missile From Submarine

North Korea Claims Successful Firing of Ballistic Missile From Submarine

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May 9 2015 1:38 PM

North Korea Claims Successful Firing of Ballistic Missile From Submarine

KOREA-NORTH/
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the test-fire of a strategic submarine underwater ballistic missile (not pictured), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015.

Reuters/KCNA

North Korea claims it successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine. If true, it would be another sign that the isolated country is improving its military capabilities. The missile, which could prove to be a threat to South Korea, Japan, and the United States, “surfaced from the sea and soared into the air, leaving a fiery trail of blaze,” as the official KCNA news agency put it, according to Reuters. “Through the test, it was verified and confirmed that the underwater ballistic missile launch from a strategic submarine fully achieved the latest military, scientific, and technical requirements.”

Although the exact date and location of the firing was not mentioned in the KCNA article, it is thought to have taken place on Friday. There is reason to be skeptical of Pyongyang’s claims of military achievements, but intelligence sources tell South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that North Korea has been developing submarine-launched ballistic missile technology.

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The test could suggest North Korea would be able to move its missiles within the range of the United States, according to Korea analyst Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The test shows that North Korea missile capabilities are advancing without any constraints now despite a bevy of nonproliferation sanctions applied by the United Nations,” he told Reuters.

Experts in South Korea say the tests are a way for Pyongyang to get concessions from Seoul and Washington after officials from those countries opened the door to preliminary negotiations on its nuclear program, reports the Associated Press. “By raising tensions, North Korea is trying to ensure that it will be able to drive whatever future talks with the U.S. and South Korea,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor from the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies. Pyongyang has been warning it would not hesitate to fire against South Korean ships that it claims have been entering its territorial waters.

In what looks like an effort to show it was serious about the threat, North Korea also test-fired three anti-ship missiles off its east coast on Saturday, reports Korea Times. South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting on Saturday to analyze the threats.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.