North Korea’s announcement on Friday revealed the successful launch of a newly constructed “tactical nuclear attack submarine,” capable of executing underwater nuclear assaults. Leader Kim Jong-un declared his commitment to “further enhancing the state’s nuclear deterrence,” as reported by North Korea’s state media.
This launch ceremony, held on Wednesday, took place in advance of the country’s 75th founding anniversary, occurring on the upcoming Saturday. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) provided details of the event.
According to the KCNA, the submarine’s launch signifies a pivotal moment for strengthening North Korea’s naval capabilities. It underlines the unwavering determination of the ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) and the DPRK government to augment the state’s nuclear deterrence, both in terms of quality and quantity. This development is seen as a significant contribution to regional and global peace and security.
The term DPRK represents the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Named the “Hero Kim Kun Ok,” this tactical nuclear attack submarine, designated as No. 841 and the first of its kind, will play a crucial role as a core underwater offensive asset for North Korea’s naval forces.
During his address, Kim highlighted that the submarine, once considered a symbol of invasion against North Korea, now symbolizes the nation’s power and terrifies its adversaries. He emphasized that it represents a unique and unprecedented addition to North Korea’s arsenal, distinct from anything seen in the world. This move is regarded as a response to the presence of U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.
Kim outlined the urgency of equipping the navy with nuclear weapons and called for the swift deployment of “underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons” to the Navy. He also disclosed plans to build more submarines, including a nuclear-powered variant.
Kim asserted that the launching ceremony bore an immense significance, equating it to the burden faced by their enemies when constructing a nuclear-powered submarine. He stressed that rapid naval force development stands as the nation’s top defense priority, given the geopolitical context and recent aggressive actions by adversaries.
Initial images released by the KCNA suggest that the new submarine features ten missile tubes, likely capable of launching submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). However, North Korea has not provided specific details. Reports indicate that the submarine may have been modified from a Romeo-class submarine, which typically lacks an SLBM launcher.
The submarine is also believed to have the capability to deploy the “Haeil,” North Korea’s first-ever nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicle unveiled in March.
However, a South Korean military official expressed skepticism about the new submarine’s capabilities. They noted that while certain external features suggest missile-carrying modifications, the submarine may not be fully operational. The official added that the military is investigating potential exaggerations by North Korea.
In light of North Korea’s expanding military cooperation with Russia and China, particularly in response to trilateral security developments involving Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo, this launch ceremony holds geopolitical significance. There are also reports of Kim’s potential visit to Vladivostok, Russia, for discussions with President Vladimir Putin and potential arms-related negotiations. South Korea’s intelligence agency had previously mentioned Russia’s proposal for trilateral naval exercises involving North Korea and China in late July.