Policy Paper

North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard: Recent Activity

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A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Jack Liu, Peter Makowsky and Jenny Town

Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard from August 26 and September 23 indicates that construction continues on a new ballistic missile submarine (SSB). Previous reports have suggested that the submarine is nearing completion, given the recent construction of a retractable awning that could be intended to conceal the new boat. That may prove to be true, however, the awning may also be intended to improve concealment of activity related to the existing SINPO-class submarine or any vessel and, therefore, is not a reliable indicator of the imminent launch of a new boat.

The presence of a cylindrical canister and support vehicles near the submersible test barge berthed at the secure boat basin strongly indicates that preparations are underway for the testing of a dummy round from its missile launch ejection system. This test is routinely done prior to actual missile launches, to ensure that the missile can be ejected at the proper speed and angle before committing to ejection and launch from the submarine.

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