North Korea Unveils Its First Nuclear-Capable Submarine

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In a significant ceremony, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unveiled the nation’s inaugural submarine, capable of launching nuclear weapons, marking a pivotal moment in Pyongyang’s military capabilities.

According to state media reports, this submarine, named Hero Kim Kun Ok in honor of a North Korean naval officer and historical figure, represents a substantial leap forward in the country’s nuclear deterrence efforts.

For years, North Korea has aspired to develop a submarine with the capacity to fire nuclear weapons, and this achievement is seen as a significant milestone toward that goal.

Photographs released by state media depict Mr. Kim standing in a shipyard, surrounded by naval officers, while an imposing black submarine looms behind him. He emphasized that this submarine would become a primary instrument for “underwater offensive” operations.

Mr. Kim stated, “The nuclear attack submarine, once a symbol of aggression against our nation for decades, now embodies our formidable power, instilling fear in our adversaries with its presence.”

However, experts express skepticism about the submarine’s overall effectiveness. Analysts suggest that it may be a modified version of a Soviet-era Romeo-class submarine, similar to the one Mr. Kim inspected in 2019, adapted to carry nuclear armaments.

North Korea Unveils Its First Nuclear-Capable Submarine

Joseph Dempsey, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, pointed out several limitations and vulnerabilities associated with the submarine, including its noise level, sluggishness, and limited operational range. Vann Van Diepen, a former US government weapons expert, echoed these concerns, according to Reuters news agency.

Furthermore, it remains unclear whether this submarine is fully operational, as North Korea has not yet demonstrated its ability to successfully launch nuclear-capable missiles from it.

It is believed that the submarine is primarily designed to carry shorter-range submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM), capable of targeting regional objectives.

South Korea has expressed condemnation over this development, questioning the submarine’s actual capabilities and suggesting that North Korea may be exaggerating its capabilities.

Japan has also voiced unease, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stating that North Korea’s military activities now pose a more significant and immediate threat to their country’s security than before, as reported by Reuters.

Additionally, North Korea has continued to conduct routine tests of both ballistic and cruise missiles throughout the year, following a substantial increase in tests during 2022.

The revelation of this submarine comes just days ahead of the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s founding, with state media announcing the participation of a Chinese delegation in the celebrations.

This announcement follows reports of Mr. Kim’s plans to visit Russia this month for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, raising concerns that North Korea may seek advanced weapons technology from Moscow in exchange for diplomatic overtures.

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