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Sinpo South Shipyard Update: North Korea Moves Submersible Missile Test Stand Barge
By Victor Cha
CSIS Korea Chair
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un leads a group of its officials in front of SLBM submarine at Sinpo South Shipyard in South Hamgyeong Province, North Korea.

New satellite imagery acquired today (April 7, 2021) shows that North Korea is moving its submersible missile test barge located at the Sinpo South Shipyard. Probable reasons for this movement include preparations for a forthcoming submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, or movement of the test stand for maintenance, repairs, or installation of equipment.

The movement of the test stand barge, and the implied threat of renewed SLBM testing (potentially of a Pukkuksong-4 or -5), would present significant challenges to the new US administration of President Joseph Biden and the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

Key Findings

•A Maxar Technologies satellite image collected at 11:09 a.m. KST today shows that North Korea is moving its submersible missile test barge located at the Sinpo South Shipyard.

•A search of a partial Planet image of the Sinpo area collected at 3:40 p.m. KST today shows that the barge has left the secure boat basin to the floating dry dock in front of the construction hall.

•As no missile canister is visible onboard the submersible missile test barge, this movement does not indicate an imminent submarine launched ballistic missile test (SLBM).

•Probable reasons for this movement include:

•Preparations for a forthcoming submarine launched ballistic missile test.

•Movement of the test stand for maintenance, repairs, or installation of equipment.

•The movement of the test stand barge, and the implied threat of renewed SLBM testing (potentially of a Pukkuksong-4 or -5), would present significant challenges to the new US administration of President Biden and the administration of South Korean President Moon.

•Further reporting on the overall Sinpo South Shipyard will follow.

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. is an internationally recognized analyst, award-winning author, and lecturer on North Korean defense and intelligence affairs and ballistic missile development in developing countries. He is concurrently senior fellow for Imagery Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS); senior adviser and imagery analyst for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK); author for IHS Markit (formerly the Jane’s Information Group); and publisher and editor of KPA Journal. Formerly, he has served as founder and CEO of KPA Associates, LLC, senior imagery analyst for 38 North at Johns Hopkins SAIS, chief analytics officer and co-founder of AllSource Analysis, Inc., and senior all-source analyst for DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center.

Victor Cha is senior vice president and the inaugural holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Jennifer Jun is a program coordinator and research assistant with the iDeas Lab and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.



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Dr. Victor Cha is Korea Chair of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). He earned his MA from Oxford, and Ph.D. from Columbia. Many books he authored include the award-winning author of "Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle." As prolific writers of articles on int'l relations in such journals as Foreign Affairs and The Washington Quarterly, he also interacts frequently with CNN, NYT, and Washington Post as well as Korean media.

 

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