North Korea launches new ‘tactical nuclear attack’ submarine

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By Webdesk

Overseeing the event, Kim Jong Un calls for the rapid development of the country’s navy and its ‘nuclear weaponisation’.

North Korea has launched its first operational “tactical nuclear attack submarine”, a key part of leader Kim Jong Un’s plan to develop a nuclear-armed navy to counter the United States and its Asian allies.

Submarine No 841 – named Hero Kim Kun Ok after a prominent North Korean historical figure – was launched on Wednesday with Kim overseeing the event, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The submarine was designed to launch tactical nuclear weapons from underwater, KCNA said, and “heralded the beginning of a new chapter” for North Korea’s navy. It did not specify the number of missiles the vessel could carry and fire.

State media showed hundreds of people gathered on the quay for the ceremony with women dressed in traditional Korean hanbok and waving flowers and flags to greet Kim. Sailors clapped in unison as he walked past with senior officers following behind.

The Hero Kim Kun Ok, which will be deployed to the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, will perform its combat mission as “one of the core underwater offensive means of the naval force” of North Korea, Kim said, saying the country plans to turn its existing submarines into nuclear-armed attack submarines and accelerate its push to develop nuclear-powered submarines.

“Achieving a rapid development of our naval forces … is a priority that cannot be delayed given … the enemies’ recent aggressive moves and military acts,” the North Korean leader said in a speech, apparently referring to the United States and South Korea.

Kim stressed the need to “push forward with the nuclear weaponisation of the navy”, KCNA said.

The submarine slips into the water. Kim Jong Un is standing on the dock watching.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stressed the need for the ‘rapid development’ of North Korea’s navy [KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea has carried out a slew of weapons tests in recent years, including what it said was a “new type” of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as Kim steps up his efforts to modernise the country’s military. The country is banned from carrying out ballistic missile tests under longstanding United Nations sanctions.

Analysts first spotted signs that at least one new submarine was being built in 2016, and in 2019, state media showed Kim inspecting a previously unreported vessel that was built under “his special attention” and that would be deployed in the waters off the east coast.

North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only the experimental ballistic missile submarine 8.24 Yongung (August 24 Hero) is known to have launched a missile.

A high-level Chinese delegation is due to arrive in North Korea on Friday as the country prepares to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its founding day on Saturday, likely with a large parade.

The US has said that Kim will also travel to Russia this month, possibly as early as next week, to meet President Vladimir Putin.

The two men will discuss the supply of North Korean weapons to Moscow, according to US intelligence reports, with North Korea seeking not only food and energy aid but possibly more advanced weapons technologies.

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