Satellite imagery of sites in North Korea indicates that the dictatorship is rushing to build its first operational ballistic missile submarine.
A report on the website 38 North said that according to data gleaned from satellite photos, there seem to be sections of a submarine’s pressure hull under construction at the Sinpo South Shipyard.
The images were taken On November 5.
38 North is a project of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The site also noted that there was continual movement of parts into and out of the shipyard, indicating that the program was”prolonged and ongoing.”
In addition, a 38 North analysis identified what appears to be a launch canister, indicating that the submarine the North Koreans are building is intended to carry SLBMs, or submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
The images appear to show two circular objects that could be sections of a submarine’s pressure hull. An analysis of the size of the parts indicates they may be part of submarines bigger than those previously built by North Korea.
Other parts seen in the photos are the launch canister which indicates that tests with SLBMs are continuing and “additional ejection tests should be expected in the future,” according to 38 North.
The website added that progress on the construction of a maintenance hall for Pyongyang’s submarines is continuing but at a very slow pace.
The revelation comes as US President Donald Trump expected to announce next week whether he is putting North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House said, opening the door to possible blacklisting.
“I believe the president will be making an announcement, a decision, on that in the first part of next week,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Earlier this month a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea “clearly fit the criteria” for being on the list, suggesting the decision will likely be bad news for Pyongyang.
Supporters of the move point to North Korea’s treatment of American student Otto Warmbier — who died this year after being released from custody in North Korea — as well as ties to Iranian and Syrian weapons programs.
The move is largely symbolic, doubling up on existing sanctions and restrictions on aid and exports.
But it could dent efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.
The designation was lifted by then-president George W. Bush in 2008 in an effort to encourage North Korea to dismantle parts of its nuclear program.
Trump has vowed to embark on a policy of “maximum pressure” on the regime, hoping it will blink and stop pursuing nuclear capable ICBMs.