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North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile From Submarine, South Says

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea has fired what appears to be a ballistic missile from a submarine toward the sea, officials in South Korea said early Saturday, Pyongyang's latest effort to expand its military might in the face of pressure by its neighbors and Washington.

The South Korean officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules, could not immediately confirm where the projectile landed.

The launch took place near the North Korean coastal town of Sinpo, where analysts have previously detected efforts by the North to develop submarine-launched ballistic missile systems.

Image: A man in South Korea watches a TV news program showing a missile launch conducted by North Korea, Saturday.
A man in South Korea watches a TV news program showing a missile launch conducted by North Korea, Saturday. Lee Jin-man / AP

A successful test from a submarine would be a worrying development because mastering the ability to fire missiles from submerged vessels would make it harder for outsiders to detect what North Korea is doing before it launches, giving it the potential to surprise its enemies.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the projectile fired by the North Saturday flew about 19 miles. It said that a typical submarine-launched ballistic missile can travel at least 186 miles.

North Korea has recently sent a barrage of missiles and artillery shells into the sea amid ongoing annual military drills between the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang says the drills are a preparation for an invasion of the North. The firings also come as the North expresses anger about toughened international sanctions over its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

North Korea's belligerence may also be linked to a major ruling party congress next month meant to further cement leader Kim Jong Un's grip on power. Promoting military accomplishments could be an attempt to overshadow a lack of economic achievements ahead of the Workers' Party congress, the first since 1980.