(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with KCNA's English dispatch, more background info; ADDS 2nd photo)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Monday questioned whether South Korea's newly unveiled submarine-launched ballistic missile is a real SLBM, claiming even if it is, the "clumsy product" is just in the elementary development stage and cannot serve as an effective means of attack.
The chief of the North's Academy of National Defense made the claim in an article carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), days after South Korea unveiled its first homegrown SLBM by announcing the successful test-launch from the 3,000-ton-class Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine.
"The disclosed pictures show that the weapon has the structure and shape of a typical ground-to-ground tactical ballistic missile. Though the photos could have deliberately been retouched for secrecy, the missile in the picture looked somewhat like a poor weapon without all its shape and far from an underwater weapon," agency chief Jang Chang-ha said. "What was shown in the pictures was clearly not SLBM."
Alleging South Korea seemed to have failed to complete key underwater ejection technologies, Jang called the new asset a "clumsy product" that imitates India's K-15 sea-based missile, and it "cannot be the one which will be an effective military attack means in a war" and "not be regarded as a weapon of strategic and tactical significance."
"If what south Korea opened to public and trumpeted so much is SLBM, it is just in the stage of elementary step," the article read. "We have experienced all these processes."
The North then said it is closely watching South Korea's intention and purpose behind the development, warning that such efforts are "a clear omen for the military tension that will be certainly aggravated on the Korean peninsula and this awakens us once again to what we should do."
"South Korea must have wanted to relieve the increasing security uneasiness in the face of the continued news about missile development by the DPRK," Jang said. DPRK is the acronym of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Sources in Seoul said several more rounds of tests will be conducted to ensure the reliability of the new asset. It will then be mass produced for operational deployment in around 2022.
The South Korean military seeks to deploy a total of 78 units to nine mid-class submarines, including the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, in phases in accordance with the country's procurement plan, they added.
The SLBM, believed to be a variant of the country's Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, has a maximum flight range of 800 kilometers. During the underwater test last week, the missile reportedly flew around 400 kilometers before striking a target.
The Seoul government said that the underwater ejection test made the country the world's seventh nation to develop an SLBM after the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and India.
North Korea has also been developing SLBMs, and it said in 2016 that it test-fired one in waters off its east coast. But it is unclear if the missile was fired from an actual submarine, according to the Seoul officials.