SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea test-fired a new, smaller ballistic missile from a submarine, state media confirmed on Wednesday, a move that analysts said could be aimed at more quickly fielding an operational missile submarine.
The statement from state media came a day after South Korea's military reported that it believed North Korea had fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile off its east coast, the latest in a string of North Korean missile tests.
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The White House urged North Korea to refrain from further "provocations," with spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying on Tuesday the United States remained open to engaging diplomatically with North Korea over its weapons programs.
Pyongyang so far has rejected those overtures, accusing the United States and South Korea of talking diplomacy while ratcheting up tensions with their own military activities.
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The United States and Britain plan to raise the North's latest test during a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, diplomats said.
The "new-type" SLBM was launched from the same submarine involved in a 2016 test of an older SLBM, North Korea's state news agency KCNA said.
North Korea has a large fleet of aging submarines, but has yet to deploy operational ballistic missile submarines beyond the experimental Gorae-class boat used in the tests.
Photos released by KCNA appeared to show a thinner, smaller missile than North Korea's earlier SLBM designs, and may be a previously unseen model first showcased at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang last week.
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A smaller SLBM could mean more missiles stored on a single submarine, although with a shorter range, potentially putting nuclear-armed North Korea closer to fielding an operational ballistic missile submarine.
Still, the development was expected to have only a limited impact on Pyongyang's arsenal until it made more progress on a larger submarine that has been seen under construction.
"It just means they're trying to diversify their submarine launch options," said Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. "It's an interesting development, but with only one submarine in the water that can launch notionally one or two of these, it doesn't change much."
North Korea has conducted several tests in recent years with short-range ballistic missiles that analysts say are designed to evade missile defense systems in South Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not reported to have attended Tuesday's test.
The missile was launched from the sea near Sinpo, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test firing SLBMs, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday.