Japan bolstering defenses against North Korea threat, Abe says

John Redwood of Charles Stanley

Images from November 5 showed parts being moved into and out of areas near constructions halls, indicating a shipbuilding program is in progress at the Sinpo base on North Korea's east coast.

North Korea is on "an aggressive schedule to build and deploy its first operational ballistic missile submarine", according to an analysis of new satellite images by the expert website 38 North. But Mark Fitzpatrick, a veteran arms control expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the BBC that submarine-launched missiles would give North Korea a second-strike capability if it faced an attack meant to take out its nuclear forces.

The researchers in 38 North spotted two large circular objects on the November 05 images, and they believe that these parts are submarine's pressure hull. Also named Gorae-class by South Korean intelligence, the SINPO-class submarine has experienced improvements earlier this year, with the introduction of a new launch tube.

Work has also been under way at a missile test stand that is apparently used to replicate the ejection of a missile from a submarine's hull.

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38 North, a Washington-based project that monitors North Korea, said satellite images indicated the regime was aggressively pursuing a ballistic missile submarine.

It said the submarine was likely a larger successor to North Korea's single experimental ballistic missile submarine.

Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US military's Pacific Command, told Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera on Thursday that diplomacy backed by military power was necessary to deal with North Korea's missile and nuclear development.

U.S. President Donald Trump visited China this month seeking its help to rein in North Korea and a senior Chinese diplomat will visit the North from Friday.

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Diplomacy backed by military power is needed to deal with North Korea's missile and nuclear development, the head of the USA military's Pacific Command said on Thursday. The past two months have seen a relative lull and it has not tested a missile since firing one over Japan on September 15.

From Japan, Trump had travelled to Seoul, where he had harshly condemned the North Korean regime in a speech at the South Korean National Assembly and underlined the strategic positioning of military assets in the region. North Korea began testing its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July.

North Korea sparked fears of World War 3 after ignoring global sanctions to continue developing and testing nuclear weapons.

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