North Korea cruise missile fuels proliferation concerns

North Korea appears to have acquired a sea-based copy of a Russian cruise missile, the latest step in an effort to enhance its maritime strike capability, a US think-tank said today.

AFP| Updated: Jun 17, 2014, 14:44 PM IST

Seoul: North Korea appears to have acquired a sea-based copy of a Russian cruise missile, the latest step in an effort to enhance its maritime strike capability, a US think-tank said today.

A state propaganda film disseminated on social media sites, including YouTube, provides a very brief glimpse of the missile being launched from a naval vessel.

Writing on the closely watched 38 North website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis said the missile would mark "a new and potentially destabilising addition" to North Korea`s military arsenal.

Lewis identified the weapon as a copy of the Russian-produced KH-35 -- a sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile developed during the 1980s and 90s.

Although the range and payload of the KH-35 fall below the threshold set by the Missile Technology Control Regime, any export of cruise missiles to North Korea would be a violation of UN sanctions.

"Although direct sale from Russia seems most likely, it is possible that North Korea obtained them from a third party like Myanmar," said Lewis, who is director for East Asia at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

As well as Myanmar, Russia has exported sea- and land-based cruise missiles to Algeria, India, Vietnam and Venezuela.

"The possibility that North Korea might sell KH-35 technology to others ... Is not a happy thought," Lewis said.

The development of the North`s conventional weaponry has largely been overshadowed by concerns over its nuclear weapons programmes.

Last

month, 38 North published satellite photos showing two new North Korean warships -- the largest it has constructed in 25 years.

The website said the two helicopter-carrying frigates represented an "important wake-up call" about the effectiveness of sanctions.

The flip-side of the North`s naval capability was shown in pictures released yesterday by the official KCNA news agency, showing supreme leader Kim Jong-Un riding in the turret of a rusted Romeo-class submarine developed by the Soviets in the 1950s.

"The submarines that our Navy holds are far superior," commented South Korean Defence Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-Seok.