Sept. 29 (UPI) — North Korea has not suspended activity at its Nampo Navy Shipyard on its western coast facing China, prompting speculation among analysts on Pyongyang’s motives for continued work on a second submersible ballistic missile test stand barge.
Writing for 38 North, U.S. analyst Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. points out the barge is a recent acquisition and a possible sign the Kim Jong Un regime is taking steps toward “expanding the [submarine-launched ballistic missile] test and development program to the west coast.”
The development could indicate North Korea is working on the “future deployment of a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” according to Bermudez.
Pyongyang has deployed the submarines and conducted SLBM test launches exclusively in waters off the eastern coast of the peninsula, a move that has provoked South Korea and Japan.
A potential future test in the Yellow Sea, however, could anger China, which recently passed new sanctions that would suspend North Korea joint ventures in the world’s second-largest economy.
The second known barge was first identified in April 2017, and “some construction seems to have taken place during the past five months on the barge’s four support superstructures and possibly in the area of the forward hull.”
Yang Wook, a senior researcher at Korea Defense and Security Forum in South Korea, said if North Korea does deploy a submarine into waters near China, it is likely to test a SLBM that would travel over North Korea territory and land in waters along its eastern coast, News 1 reported.
Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea analyst at Kyungnam University, said a North Korea launch from the Yellow Sea could be carried out to signal its dissatisfaction with China.
Beijing has taken steps to curtail coal and textiles from North Korea.