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North Korea may soon conduct its first underwater-launched ballistic missile test in about a year, according to a top South Korean military official. 

It comes amid long-stalled nuclear talks between the North and the United States.

In written remarks to lawmakers ahead of a confirmation hearing, Won In-choul, the nominee for chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said North Korea has been repairing recent typhoon damage at its northeastern Sinpo shipyard, a place where it builds submarines.

North Korea could soon conduct its first underwater-launched ballistic missile test in about a year, South Korea's military said Wednesday. Above,  a file image of an underwater-launched missile off North Korea's eastern coastal town of Wonsan

Shortly after the repairs are complete, there is a chance it will carry out a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, Won said. He said South Korea's military is keeping a close watch on developments there, according to a copy of his remarks provided by a lawmaker, Kang Dae-sik.

In recent years, North Korea has been pushing hard to acquire the ability to launch missiles from submarines in what experts say is a worrying development because such weapons are difficult to detect before launch. 

A test of an underwater-launched missile by North Korea last October was the first of its kind in three years, and the most provocative weapons test since North Korea entered nuclear negotiations with the U.S. in 2018.

The nuclear talks have made little headway since the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam in early 2019 collapsed due to disputes over U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea.

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Jung Changwook, head of the private Korea Defense Study Forum in Seoul, said North Korea could perform a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, test to upgrade its nuclear attack capability and put pressure on Washington after the U.S. presidential election in early November.

There has been speculation that North Korea may test such a missile before the anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party on Oct. 10. Jung said that is possible, but stressed that North Korea is aiming more at pressuring the U.S. rather than celebrating its state anniversary.

Polaris submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) are paraded to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder, in Pyongyang, North Korea in this 2017 file image 

Some experts say it's unlikely that North Korea will conduct any major weapons test soon because it is grappling with multiple crises, including typhoon damage, the coronavirus pandemic that led to the closure of its border with China — its biggest trading partner — and harsh U.S.-led sanctions.

Foreign experts say past North Korean underwater-launched missile tests were conducted from a submersible barge with a single launch tube, not a functioning submarine. In July 2019, North Korean state media said Kim inspected a newly built submarine which observers said appeared to be the North's most sophisticated model with several launch tubes.

Jung said the possible upcoming test would also be made from the barge, not the new submarine, to not provoke the United States too much.

According to 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, recent satellite images of the Sinpo shipyard show the repositioning or departure of the submersible test barge. It said the barge's location 'may signal an impending SLBM test though conducting such a launch on the heels of a destructive typhoon seems unlikely.' It said the barge may have been moved somewhere for repairs.

Jung said a missile fired from the barge would have a potential range of 300-500 kilometers (185-310 miles), thus posing no direct threat to the U.S. mainland. Despite the deadlocked nuclear talks, North Korea hasn't conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests in an apparent bid to keep chances for a resumption of diplomacy alive.

News Source: dailymail.co.uk

Tags: submarine launched ballistic missile launched ballistic missile test underwater launched north korea south korea

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Trump admin says COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory, will be distributed within 24 hours of FDA approval

President Donald Trump announced Friday that a COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed within 24 hours of completion of phase 3 trials and FDA approval, with all Americans having access to the vaccine by April, according to the Daily Caller.

Speed has been the priority in the pursuit of a vaccine to provide relief to the country from the pandemic, as evidenced by the name of the initiative: Operation Warp Speed. From the Daily Caller:

"Since January, America's brilliant doctors and scientists have been working been working around the clock, the best medical minds in the world by far and the vaccines are going through the gold standard of clinical trials, very heavy emphasis placed on safety," Trump told reporters at the top of his Friday afternoon press conference. "Three vaccines are already in the final stage."

The president further stated that "as part of Operation Warp Speed, my administration has manufactured one of the most promising vaccines in advance, and it will be fairly long in advance, as soon as a vaccine is approved, the administration will deliver it to the American people immediately. Distribution will begin within 24 hours."

Trump said there should be enough doses by April for every American to have access to the vaccine.

Concerns about how safe the vaccine will be, combined with new perspective on just how heavily governments may impose requirements on citizens in an emergency, have led some to be skeptical about taking a vaccine for COVID-19.

Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House coronavirus response task force, assured the public that they will have a choice in the matter.

"By April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated," Atlas said. "It's not a forced vaccination."

Nearly half of surveyed Americans have said they will either definitely or probably not get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Pew Research Center. Of that group, 76% of them cite fear of side effects as a major concern, and 72% of them say they want to know more about how well it works.

Among the roughly half of Americans who say they would not get a #Covid19Vaccine vaccine, 76% say concern about sid… https://t.co/RiKlH9RHZE — Courtney Johnson (@Courtney Johnson)1600452790.0

From Pew Research:

There are widespread public concerns about aspects of the vaccine development process. On the heels of a pledge from nine pharmaceutical companies to ensure that a potential vaccine would meet rigorous standards, the Center survey finds three-quarters of Americans (77%) think it's very or somewhat likely a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved in the United States before its safety and effectiveness are fully understood. And when asked about the pace of the vaccine approval process, 78% say their greater concern is that it will move too fast, without fully establishing safety and effectiveness, compared with just 20% who are more concerned approval will move too slowly, creating unnecessary delays.

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