Staff, Yonhap News Agency (S. Korea)
11 May 2015
SEOUL – South Korea expressed concerns Monday over North Korea's test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), urging the communist North to stop its development.
On Saturday, North Korea said it test-fired a ballistic missile underwater, renewing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"We judge North Korea's test-firing of a ballistic missile underwater last week to be very serious and worrying," defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said during a regular press briefing.
"We urge North Korea to immediately cease the development of SLBMs that undermine security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," Kim said.
If confirmed, it would be North Korea's first successful launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine. South Korean officials, however, have played down the seriousness of the test, saying the missile appeared to have flown only about 100 meters from the surface of the water.
"We believe the North's test-firing was the early stage of its SLBM development," the spokesman said, noting that advanced nations fully developed their SLBMs four to five years after they first test-fired them.
Responding to concerns that South Korea may not be able to properly respond to the new threat, Kim referred to the South's pre-emptive strike apparatus, the Kill Chain, and its low-tier air defense program, the Korean Air and Missile Defense system.
"We plan to continue to build up the Kill Chain and the KAMD so we are preparing well," he said.
North Korea is expected to complete the development of the SINPO-class submarine equipped with SLBMs as early as in two or three years, according to a South Korean military source.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo, meanwhile, vowed "merciless" retaliation in the event of provocations from the North.
"Retribution for provocations is an order from the people," he said in an emergency security meeting between the government and the ruling Saenuri Party. "Our military will stand with solid military readiness and make flat-out efforts for citizens to live their everyday lives at ease."
On Saturday, the United States also urged North Korea to cease ballistic missile launches, saying they are a violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.
"We call on North Korea to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations," a State Department spokesperson said. "The United States remains steadfast in its commitments to the defense of its allies. We will continue to coordinate closely with the ROK (South Korea)."