The missile was fired from a submerged barge, they conclude.Julian Ryall, Tokyo
13 January 2016
Weapon that malfunctioned in December test was actually fired from submerged barge, not a submarine, experts claim.
North Korea faked what it claimed was a successful launch in December of a ballistic missile from a submarine, according to American analysts.
Pyongyang declared the December 21 launch to have been a complete success and a leap forward in its plans to equip its submarine fleet with long-range ballistic missiles.
Footage of the latest test launch - the third - was shown on North Korean television on Friday, two days after the regime carried out its fourth underground nuclear test. Despite Pyongyang's claims, analysts do not believe that blast was a thermonuclear device.
Similarly, experts have taken issue with the submarine missile launch, suggesting that Pyongyang is still some years away from deploying a viable sub-surface missile capability.
Kim Jong Un during a visit to the submarine Photo: Rodong Sinmun
Experts had already suggested that the missile "failed catastrophically" shortly after launch and that the footage shown on television had been heavily modified and spliced together with earlier images.
Now, analysts have cast doubt on the claim that the missile was launched from a submarine.
"While parts of the video footage of the launch are believed to have been faked, examining the initial stages of this launch, along with satellite imagery of the submarine and support vessels in port two days later, suggests that this test was probably conducted from a submerged barge rather than an actual submarine", a report on the 38 North web site claimed.
A few frames of the footage that were apparently overlooked by the North Korean editor also appear to show the stern of a support ship for the submerged barge, writes John Schilling, an analyst for the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
Satellite photos taken after the test show a submarine in port alongside a submersible test barge. A crane required to remove the launch canister the missile is, tellingly, alongside the barge.
Regardless of the success or failure of the test, Mr Schilling points out, "The North Koreans will presumably get it right eventually".
"They know how to build missiles that work, they know how to build submarines that work and Kim Jong-un seems particularly enthusiastic about both," he said. "We anticipate that they will keep trying".
Analysts estimate that North Korea may have overcome the technical difficulties for a submarine launched ballistic missile by 2020.