North Korea and South Korea both tested ballistic missiles overnight, Eastern time, within just hours of each other. And while North Korea’s test is likely to get the most attention in western media on Wednesday, South Korea’s test was arguably the most notable for being conducted from a submarine, an incredibly difficult feat that only six other countries have pulled off successfully.
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast in tests that occurred shortly after 11:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday (12:30 p.m. Wednesday in North Korea). The type of missiles have yet to be identified, according to the Korea Herald. The test was North Korea’s second this week, with a long range cruise missile test occurring over the weekend.
South Korea’s missile test was carried out just a few hours after North Korea’s test on Wednesday and was notable for its advanced technology. The test involved a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, was even on hand to witness the test, according to Yonhap News Agency.
President Moon was on board a new Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine when the missile test was conducted at the ADD Anheung Test Centre in South Chungcheong Province, according to the South Korean government. And it’s being heralded by the country as a new way to deter North Korea militarily during the New Cold War.
“Possessing SLBM is very meaningful in terms of securing deterrence against omnidirectional threats and it is expected to play a big role in self-reliant national defence and establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula, going forward,” Moon’s administration said in a statement obtained by Yonhap.
While South Korea has become just the seventh country in the world to successfully launch a submarine-based ballistic missile, it’s the only country in that same class that doesn’t have its own nuclear weapons capability. The U.S., Russia, China, India, UK, and France all have both SLBMs and nuclear weapons. North Korea has developed a submarine-based nuclear weapons capability that’s been shown off in parades, though it’s not clear whether North Korea has successfully tested any SLBMs.
Submarine-based nuclear weapons are part of America’s so-called nuclear-triad strategy, involving three ways to launch nuclear weapons: by land, by air, and by sea. And even though South Korea doesn’t currently have any nuclear weapons that the world knows about, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be joining the club very soon.