Author: Samuel Osborne
Posted on: The Independent | January 17th, 2018
Critics say Olympics overture is attempt to stall for time to perfect nuclear weapons programme
North Korea appears to be preparing for future rocket tests by developing a second submersible barge from which to launch ballistic missiles, according to new satellite imagery.
Its other test barge, which was obtained in 2014 and based at Sinpo South Shipyard, has been used to support the development of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and North Korea’s largest experimental ballistic missile submarine.
Satellite imagery shows the new barge has been moved to a fitting-out dock at the shipyard since previous images taken in December.
The dock is typically where vessels are moved to when their hulls are sound yet they require systems, such as pumps, electrics and communications, to be installed, the North Korea analysis website 38 North reported.
There is also a small floating crane moored alongside the barge, with its boom extended over the vessel.
The purpose of the work is unclear. It probably concerns final stages of repair before the barge is declared operational, Joseph S Bermudez Jr, an analyst at 38 North said.
He said it was unclear when the barge would become operational.
Kim Jong-un, the leader of the totalitarian state, has refused to give up the goal of developing nuclear missiles capable of hitting the US despite increasingly severe international sanctions.
At the same time, North and South Korea have come to something of a rapprochement with a number of collaborative projects around this year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Critics warn the North’s overture is an attempt to use improved ties with the South to weaken US-led international sanctions as it stalls for time to perfect is nuclear weapons programme.
But the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, has praised Donald Trump for his belligerent approach to diplomacy with North Korea, saying last week that «President Trump deserves big credit» for helping bring about new inter-Korean talks.