Choe Sang-Hunjan, The New York Times
12 January 2016
The video footage North Korea has broadcast of what looked like a successful submarine-launched ballistic missile was most likely faked to exaggerate the country's advances in missile development, according to an analysis posted Tuesday by a research institute based in the United States.
Two days after conducting its fourth nuclear test, North Korea released television footage on Friday that showed its leader, Kim Jong-un, watching a missile rising from the sea and soaring through clouds. The North indicated that the test took place in December, supporting earlier news media and analysts' reports that it had launched a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Dec. 21.
But officials at the South Korean Defense Ministry immediately questioned the North Korean claim, saying that they saw signs that the footage had been doctored.
John Schilling, a missile expert, raised similar doubts in an analysis posted Tuesday on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
"Closer examination of the video itself has revealed inconsistencies that suggest it has been spliced together to show success," he wrote. Mr. Schilling said that the test had probably been conducted from a submerged barge rather than a submarine and appeared to have failed.
He said he had reached his conclusions after examining the video and subsequent independent commercial satellite imagery of the submarine and support vessels involved in the North's ballistic missile development.
"The failed launch combined with testing from a barge shows that North Korea still has a long way to go to develop this system," he said. "An initial operational capability of a North Korean ballistic-missile submarine is not expected before 2020."
Fears of North Korea's missile threats have grown since May, when it claimed that it had successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, and released photographs of Mr. Kim observing a missile soaring out of the water. Some missile experts also questioned that claim, saying that those photos appeared to have been modified as well. North Korea is believed to be developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile and mobile missile systems to make it harder to detect the ability to deliver nuclear warheads.