Sinpho Secure Boat Basin: A Reassessment of Recent Developments

Commercial satellite imagery from November 12 and 13 show little activity at North Korea’s Sinpho South Shipyard around the SINPO-class ballistic missile submarine other than the repositioning of the submersible test barge to be partially covered by the awning at the secure boat basin. The purpose of the repositioning is unclear, although the awning does obscure a portion of the barge and prevents complete monitoring.

On October 19, North Korea conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test from the SINPO-class submarine. Ten days later, 38 North concluded that activity spotted after that test at the barge was “consistent with preparations” for another test launch of an SLBM. The movement of a mobile crane from the submarine to the submersible test barge—reportedly not used in the October 19 launch—and the removal of the cover over the barge’s missile canister ring mount, seen on October 28, were activities associated with inserting a missile canister into the ring mount.

As no subsequent SLBM test has been detected since then, other explanations for activity at the submersible test barge now seem more likely, such as improvements, maintenance or perhaps even deception.

Figure 1. Overview of the secure boat basin.

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38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea