SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submarine, Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a capability.
A new Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine successfully carried out the underwater ejection tests last week, after similar tests were conducted from a submerged barge last month, Yonhap reported, citing unnamed military sources.
The defense ministry said it cannot confirm details of individual military unit capabilities due to security reasons.
Last week the defense ministry released its defense blueprint for 2022-2026 which called for developing new missiles “with significantly enhanced destructive power”.
SLBMs have been developed by seven other countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, and North Korea. All of those countries also have arsenals of nuclear weapons, which have typically been used to arm SLBMs.
Yonhap said the conventionally armed South Korean missile has reportedly been codenamed the Hyunmoo 4-4 and is believed to be a variant of the country’s Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a flight range of around 500 kilometers (311 miles) .
South Korea has developed increasingly powerful missiles designed to target heavily fortified bunkers and tunnels in North Korea, as well as a way to decrease its military dependence on the United States, which stations thousands of troops on the peninsula.
Both Koreas cite military developments in the other as reasons to boost their capabilities.
North Korea has unveiled a series of new SLBMs in recent years, and appears to be building an operational submarine designed to eventually carry them.
On Tuesday, state media said North Korea has elevated a general long seen as a rising star in the country’s powerful military and a major player in its missile program to a position in the presidium of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) politburo.
Pak Jong Chon will also serve as secretary of the WPK Central Committee, KCNA news agency said.
Analysts attributed his rise in part to his role in North Korea’s short-range missile development, which surged ahead after leader Kim Jong Un suspended long-range ballistic missile tests in 2018 amid talks with the United States.
Pak appears to have replaced Ri Pyong-chol, another powerful general who played a major role in North Korea’s ballistic missile program, on the presidium, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Analysts said the reshuffling in July was the most significant personnel change among the core elite in years, and was seen as a likely warning to them that Kim would hold them accountable and maintain checks on their power.