"The development of these two classes of missiles represents a major development in North Korea's strategic power," the Lowy Institute said in a Thursday note.
Wednesday's launch of a Scud-ER ballistic missile from the port city of Sinpo, home to a North Korean submarine base, indicated an evolution of weapons fired from land and sea, according to the Australian think tank.
There were key similarities between Wednesday's land-based missile and the submarine-launched missile known as the Pukguksong-1 or KN-15 that was test fired last August, the note said. Both were cold-launched using gas pressure from cylindrical containers, both ignited their solid motors after leaving their containers and both used the same design for their rocket stages.
In light of this resemblance, Wednesday's launch could be "a test of elements of the submarine launched missile from a land-based silo, or a test of systems common to both missiles."
Because Wednesday's missile only traveled 60 kilometers horizontally, U.S. officials deemed the launch a failure, but the Lowy Institute suggested otherwise.
"The missile reached an altitude of 189 kilometers, well into outer space. This would seem to be a test of an alternative trajectory, which exposes the missile to different conditions. Re-entry testing could have been conducted on this flight."