- South Korean military developers allegedly completed a successful test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
- Analysts in South Korea and the United States agreed that Seoul is unlikely to build its own nuclear warheads for use on submarine-launched missiles.
- The move comes as Western authorities regard both China and North Korea as posing a growing nuclear danger.
Pioneer of submarine-launched ballistic missiles
South Korean military developers allegedly completed a successful test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which appears to be a benefit to the US ally’s quest to counter North Korea’s arsenal of conventional and nuclear weapons.
“It will provide the ROK Navy with a stand-off missile capability that can be very effective off the east coast of North Korea,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow David Maxwell said.
According to him, the alleged test gives South Korea the unusual distinction of being the only country known to produce submarine-launched ballistic missiles without simultaneously producing nuclear weapons. South Korean authorities recently vowed to build weapons “with significantly enhanced destructive power” as North Korean officials prepare for their own military display.
South Korea unlikely to breach Non-Proliferation Treaty
Analysts in South Korea and the United States agreed that Seoul is unlikely to build its own nuclear warheads for use on submarine-launched missiles. “As long as the United States and South Korea maintain their alliance, Seoul will not develop nuclear weapons,” said Ewha University professor Leif-Eric Easley.
Maxwell agreed that South Korea is unlikely to breach the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but he added that “the ROK has the technological potential to create nuclear weapons if it wanted.” Analysts believe the alleged launch attests to South Korea’s technological prowess, even though this specific weapon may not have far-reaching consequences beyond the Korean Peninsula.
“It really will not add significant capabilities for the alliance,” Maxwell said. “I expect the ROK will want to employ this capability as part of its kill chain concept to target North Korean missiles prior to launch.”
China and North Korea posing a nuclear threat
This move comes as Western authorities regard both China and North Korea as posing a growing nuclear danger.
“China’s nuclear arsenal is rapidly expanding … without any limitation or constraint. And with a complete lack of transparency,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday at a NATO conference on arms control. “There are also other players fielding nuclear weapons and advanced missile systems. North Korea and Iran, for example, are blatantly ignoring or breaking the global rules and spreading dangerous technology.”
In that context, the new missile’s limits, which allegedly have a range of 500 kilometers, conjure a propensity in South Korean President Moon Jae-administration in’s that disappoint some US strategists.
South Korea’s foreign policy considerations are complicated by the country’s economic reliance on China, which used that power to retaliate against Seoul’s plan to deploy a missile defense system with radar capable of detecting not just North Korean missiles but also Chinese ones.