North Korea's recently tested submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) appears to be in an early stage of development and can be intercepted, South Korea's Defence Minister Suh Wook said on Thursday.
He made the remarks during a parliamentary audit session, as his Ministry vowed to deploy more missile detection assets and reinforce cooperation with the US to deal with the North's continued missile research activitiesm reports Yonhap News Agency.
Tensions flared up on Tuesday, when Pyongyang launched a new type of SLBM from what it claims to be a submarine in a fresh setback to Seoul's dogged drive to resume nuclear diplomacy with the recalcitrant regime.
"North Korea appears to be making a lot of efforts (to develop SLBMs) as seen in its display of three SLBMs at a defence exhibition," Suh said, referring to the exhibition held in Pyongyang last week.
"But (the missile) should be paired with the launch platform. Thus, we think it is at an early stage," he added.
His remarks suggested there still appears to be room for improvement in the North's SLBM program, such as securing a reliable SLBM launch platform like a submarine capable of carrying and firing such seaborne weapons.
"We are not analysing just that single SLBM launch," the Minister said. "We need to look at the issue of the launch platform and whether the submarine operates normally after a missile launch."
Asked whether the SLBM can be intercepted, Suh said, "we judge that's possible".
The Minister's remarks came as Pyongyang has called on Seoul and Washington to drop what it terms "double standards" in reference to the allies' characterization of its missile launch as a provocation and of their own as a "deterrent".
"Provocations are something that inflict damage on our territorial land, air and sea, and our citizens," he said.
The evolving North Korean threats are expected to be on the agenda for the South Korea-US Security Consultative Meeting (SCM), the allies' annual defense ministerial, talks slated to be held in Seoul on December 2.