North Korean’s “tactical nuclear attack submarine” is a first of its own in operational condition. The country launched it and allotted to its fleet that, according to official media on Friday, monitors the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced on Wednesday at a launch ceremony that Submarine No. 841 is named after an iconic figure of the nation, Hero Kim Kun Ok, and will be one of the main “underwater offensive means of the naval force” of North Korea.
According to analysts, the submarine looks to be a modified Romeo-class submarine from the Soviet era, which North Korea purchased from China in the 1970s and started manufacturing domestically. Analysts claimed that given its design, which had 10 launch tube ports, it was most likely equipped with both ballistic and cruise missiles.
However, because the North’s submarines might not last as long in a conflict, such weapons won’t add much to the North’s more powerful land-based nuclear arsenal, according to Vann Van Diepen, a former US government weapons specialist who works with the 38 North project in Washington. He said, “When this thing is field deployed, it’s going to be quite vulnerable to allied anti-submarine warfare. So I think from a sort of hard-headed military standpoint this doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
The submarine didn’t appear to be ready for routine operations, according to South Korea’s military, and there were indications that North Korea was seeking to overstate its capabilities.
Kim pledged more surface and submerged vessels outfitted with tactical nuclear weapons for the naval forces during the launch ceremony and declared that equipping the navy with nuclear weapons was an important priority, according to news agency KCNA.
KCNA further said, “The submarine-launching ceremony heralded the beginning of a new chapter for bolstering up the naval force of the DPRK”. The agency referred North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In his speech Un said, “Achieving a rapid development of our naval forces … is a priority that cannot be delayed given … the enemies’ recent aggressive moves and military acts,” he was clearly referring to the United States and South Korea.
According to Kim, North Korea intends to speed up its effort to eventually create nuclear-powered submarines by converting additional current submarines into nuclear-armed ships.
South Korea and Japan denounced the submarine launch, and the United Nations Security Council has prohibited North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. “North Korea’s military activity is posing graver and more imminent threat to our country’s security than before,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a briefing.
According to Choi Il, a retired South Korean submarine captain, the designation of “tactical” submarine implies that it does not carry submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) that can reach the U.S. mainland but rather smaller, shorter-range SLBMs or submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM) that can strike South Korea, Japan, or other nearby targets.
Ten vertical launch tubes, four big and six tiny, were fitted in the back of the submarine’s sail, the tower that protrudes from the top of the hull, he claimed. These tubes were presumably installed for SLBMs and SLCMs.
Both SLBMs and SLCMs have been test-fired by North Korea.
Whether North Korea has completely developed the little nuclear warheads required for such rockets is unknown. According to analysts, developing more compact warheads would undoubtedly be a priority in case of resuming nuclear warheads.
The majority of other nations only use the roughly 20 Romeo-class submarines operated by North Korea as training platforms. These submarines have diesel-electric motors and are outdated by current standards.
In 2019, official media depicted Kim examining a previously undisclosed submarine created under “his special attention” that would operate off the east coast. Analysts initially saw indicators that at least one new submarine was being built in 2016.
State media at the time did not mention the submarine’s weapons systems or the location or timing of the inspection, but experts claimed the new ship’s apparent size suggested it was intended to transport missiles.
Only the experimental ballistic missile submarine 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero) has fired a missile, part of North Korea’s sizable submarine fleet, is now operational.
Following news that Kim planned to visit Russia this month to meet with President Vladimir Putin to negotiate military supply to Moscow, the launching ceremony takes place as North Korea prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its foundation day on Saturday.
In a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Thursday in Jakarta, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol urged Beijing to take more measures in response to North Korea’s nuclear threat.