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South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during the celebration of the 76th anniversary of Liberation Day on Aug. 15 in Seoul.Handout/Getty Images

South Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submarine, Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a capability.

A new Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine successfully carried out the underwater ejection tests last week, after similar tests were conducted from a submerged barge last month, Yonhap reported, citing unnamed military sources.

The defence ministry said it cannot confirm details of individual military unit capabilities due to security reasons.

The Agency for Defense Development had no comment and referred questions to the defence ministry.

Last week, the defence ministry released its defence blueprint for 2022-2026, which called for developing new missiles “with significantly enhanced destructive power.”

SLBMs have been developed by seven other countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India and North Korea. All of those countries also have arsenals of nuclear weapons, which have typically been used to arm SLBMs.

Yonhap said the conventionally armed South Korean missile has reportedly been code-named the Hyunmoo 4-4 and is believed to be a variant of the country’s Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a flight range of around 500 kilometres (311 miles).

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South Korea has developed increasingly powerful missiles designed to target heavily fortified bunkers and tunnels in North Korea, as well as a way to decrease its military dependence on the United States, which stations thousands of troops on the peninsula.

Both Koreas cite military developments in the other as reasons to boost their capabilities.

North Korea has unveiled a series of new SLBMs in recent years, and appears to be building an operational submarine designed to eventually carry them.

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