SEOUL – North Korea appears to have acquired a copy of a Russian ship-to-ship cruise missile, the latest step in an effort to enhance its maritime strike capability, a U.S. think tank said Tuesday.
A state propaganda film disseminated on social media sites, including YouTube, provides a very brief glimpse of the missile being launched from a naval vessel.
Writing on the respected 38 North website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis said the missile would mark “a new and potentially destabilizing addition” to North Korea’s military arsenal.
Lewis identified the weapon as a copy of the Russian-produced KH-35 — a sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile developed during the 1980s and ’90s.
The range and payload of the KH-35 fall below the threshold set by the Missile Technology Control Regime, but any export of cruise missiles to North Korea would be a violation of U.N. sanctions.
“Although direct sale from Russia seems most likely, it is possible that North Korea obtained them from a third party like Myanmar,” said Lewis, who is director for East Asia at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
As well as Myanmar, Russia has exported sea- and land-based cruise missiles to Algeria, India, Vietnam and Venezuela. “The possibility that North Korea might sell KH-35 technology to others . . . is not a happy thought,” Lewis said.
The flip-side of the North’s naval capability was shown in pictures released Monday by the state media, showing leader Kim Jong Un on the flying bridge of a rusted Romeo-class submarine developed by the Soviets in the 1950s.