Shinzo Abe pledges to strengthen defence amid North Korea threat

Sections of a submarine's pressure hull have been spotted in the yards adjacent to construction halls in addition to probable launch canister support within the service tower at the missile test stand.

The images represent a powerful reminder that, as well as developing inter-continental range ballistic missiles launched from land, North Korea has for several years been pursuing a programme to launch a long-range missile from a submarine.

The images of Sinpo South Shipyard released on Thursday by 38 North, a project by the U.S. -Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that specializes in North Korea analysis, suggested there were signs of movement and parts in the area since the start of the year.

North Korea has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, sparking a major global crisis in which U.S. President Donald Trump has said that all options are under consideration, including military ones.

It said these appeared larger than those for North Korea's ROMEO-class attack submarine.

38 North pointed to two large circular objects in a yard that could be parts of a submarine's pressure hull.

However, the report said no activity could be seen suggesting preparations for a new test of a submarine-launched missile. But as 38 North reports, ejection tests are expected in the future for submarine-launched ballistic missiles Pukguksong-1, a possible Pukguksong-3 and other missiles.

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. But the new images show that significant work is under way at the Sinpo shipyard on North Korea's eastern coast to expand its construction facilities, and there are hints that another missile-carrying submarine may be under construction.

"Clearly, while diplomacy must be the main effort with North Korea, it has to be diplomacy backed by credible military power", Admiral Harry Harris said in Japan at the beginning of a meeting with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. North Korea began testing its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July.

US President Donald Trump urged Japan to purchase more American weapons that would allow Mr Abe to counter the North Korea threat, raising concerns Mr Trump was more interested in business than security.

  • Rogelio Becker