North Korea launches tactical nuclear attack submarine in show of force

North Korea unveiled its latest “tactical nuclear attack submarine” in a ceremony overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, aimed at bolstering the nation’s defense capabilities, as per reports from the state-run KCNA news agency.

During the ceremony, Kim Jong Un emphasized the submarine’s role in advancing the nuclear capabilities of the North Korean Navy in the future, as reported by KCNA.

The submarine, named the Hero Kim Kun Ok, signifies a new phase in enhancing North Korea’s naval power, according to the KCNA report. The celebratory event featured confetti and balloons.

Kim reiterated his strategic and tactical plans to modernize both underwater and surface naval forces and to continue with the nuclear weaponization of the Navy in the future, as reported by North Korean state media.

On the following day, Kim conducted an inspection of the submarine in preparation for a test cruise, emphasizing the urgency of arming the navy with nuclear weapons. He stressed the need to expedite the transfer of underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons to the Navy to fulfill its strategic responsibilities, according to KCNA.

Observers first detected signs of a new submarine under construction in 2016, and in 2019, state media showcased Kim inspecting an undisclosed submarine that had received his special attention. This submarine was slated to operate off the east coast. While specific details regarding the vessel’s weapons systems were not disclosed at the time, analysts believed it was designed for missile deployment.

The armament of the new submarine with missiles remains unclear. North Korea has previously tested various types of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), along with short-range SLBMs and cruise missiles deployable from submarines. The development of miniaturized nuclear warheads suitable for these missiles would be a critical objective if North Korea resumes nuclear testing.

North Korea maintains a substantial submarine fleet, but only the experimental ballistic missile submarine known as the 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero) has been confirmed to launch a missile.

Tal Inbar, a senior research fellow at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, suggested that the submarine’s large sail appears to have the capacity for both ballistic and cruise missiles. He anticipated that missile launches from this submarine would not be far off.

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