Sinpo Shipyard, the main hub of the Defence industry in the hermit nation, is being closely watched by South Korea for signs of movement. Joseph Bermudez, a senior fellow for Imagery Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS), said he had analysed satellite imagery that showed a launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLMB) is being prepared at the shipyard. The activity at the base is unusual as most people, including those who work at the shipyard for other reasons, are not allowed near.
The experts say the pictures show a submersible test stand barge at the Sinpo South Shipyard.
An array of vessels can be within the boat basin in the images.
Dr Victor Cha, who leads the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told NBC: “This looks like they are certainly preparing to do an SLBM test for the first time.
“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.”
Two Romeo-class submarines are also anchored within the base, which the website says may be used for an SLBM test manoeuvre.
A source told Daily NK: “The shipyard had already gradually begun preparations for the launch of a SLBM some time ago, but they began pushing harder to finish the preparations from September.
“The site is bustling with activity to prepare for the ballistic missile launch, with central government officials and researchers arriving at the site from late August, along with the mobilisation of many military units.”
The source added North Korea is planning to complete the launch in time for the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) foundation day on October 10.
The source added: “The atmosphere around the site is unusual because officials and labourers are unable to leave the facility, for example.
But the submarine maintenance base did not get damaged due to workers going to great lengths to prevent the storms destroying the site.
This has resulted in South Korea growing concerned that this was deliberately done to ensure preparations could be carried out.
Won In-choul, the nominee for chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to the National Assembly’s National Defence Committee.
He said North Korea was repairing damage from the typhoons to the shipyard.
He added “shortly after the repairs are complete, there is a chance it will carry out a submarine-launched ballistic missile test”.
North Korea often carries out missile launches during major events.
Last October, it carried out a successful launch of the new Pukguksong-3 SLBM.
The country also claimed that “the successful new-type SLBM test-firing comes to be of great significance as it ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat to the DPRK and further bolstering its military muscle for self-defence”.