State media called Sunday's launch of the solid-fuelled KN-23, a
short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), the latest in the isolated
country's recent series of missile tests, an element of drills
simulating a nuclear counterattack against the U.S. and South
State media photos showed that the missile soared from what
appeared to be a buried silo, which analysts say would help fire
missiles with little warning while evading outside monitoring,
as Pyongyang races to perfect ICBMs capable of striking anywhere
in the U.S.
"With a silo, you can quickly fire a missile, almost
immediately," said Yang Uk, a fellow at the Asan Institute for
Policy Studies in Seoul. "And without launch preparations being
detected in advance, you can just press a button."
Unlike the KN-23, liquid-fuelled missiles such as North Korea's
Hwasong-17 ICBM require time for fuelling. With a silo that can
take place underground, out of sight.
North Korea typically relies on mobile launchers, but the
country's lack of infrastructure could make launches from such
trucks challenging, Yang said.
"But the downside is that silos can be detected with satellite
imagery, so someone would always keep an eye on them, and they
might just be incapacitated in a preemptive strike," he added.
Decker Eveleth at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation
Studies in California said North Korea started breaking ground
on the silo in late January, which means the deployment time for
a missile based in such a structure could be less than 60 days.
Joseph Dempsey, a defence researcher at the International
Institute for Strategic Studies, said satellite imagery on Feb.
13 and March 18 indicated recent excavation and construction of
possible fixed launch sites at the North's Sohae missile
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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