Report: Kim, North Korea’s head, oversaw submarine missile test launches

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North Korea Advancing Naval Nuclear Capabilities

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, recently monitored the tests of new submarine-based cruise missiles and further evaulated developments within the country’s nuclear-powered submarine program. The activity indicates the country’s goal of building a navy capable of delivering nuclear weapons, intended to serve as a deterrent to perceived international threats. This information comes from our sources based on state media reports.

Intensified Missile Launches and Tests

The latest missile tests came to light a day after the South Korean military reported the detection of North Korea launching multiple cruise missiles into waters near Sinpo, an eastern port city with a significant shipyard where submarines are developed. These tests form part of a series of ongoing North Korean weapons demonstrations amidst increasing tension between the country and South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

In-focus: The Pulhwasal-3-31 Missile

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official newspaper, released images of what appeared to be two different missiles being launched separately. The missiles produced grayish-white clouds upon emerging from the water, indicating they might have been launched from torpedo tubes. State media identified the weapons as Pulhwasal-3-31 missiles, a new type of missile recently tested in land-based launches from North Korea’s western coastline.

Submarine-based Nuclear Capabilities

In recent years, North Korea has undertaken tests of several missile types designed for submarine release, as part of the nation’s goal to execute underwater nuclear strikes. In theory, these advanced capabilities strengthen its deterrent power, allowing North Korea to retaliate to a nuclear attack. Nevertheless, achieving a reliable attack-executing submarine fleet would demand significant time, resources, and technological advancements, according to numerous analysts.

Reaction from Kim Jong Un and Future Goals

According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim expressed approval with the missile test results, as the missiles accurately hit their sea targets. He then issued unspecified crucial tasks to strive for the navy’s nuclear weaponization and operational expansion. Kim emphasized these tasks as vital considering the “prevailing situation and future threats”. Kim was also updated on efforts to develop a nuclear-propelled submarine along with other progressive naval vessels.

Strategic Importance of Nuclear-Propelled Submarines

Nuclear-powered submarines that can stealthily travel long distances and strike enemy shores would algin with Kim’s stated objective of constructing a nuclear arsenal capable of threatening mainland U.S. However, experts suggest that successfully building such vessels could disprove feasible for North Korea without external aid.

South Korea’s Assessment

South Korea’s military suggested that the submarine debuted by North Korea in September, the “Hero Kim Kun Ok,” was not yet ready for operational duty and suggested the North was overstating its capabilities. The submarine seemed to have at least 10 launch tubes designed for missiles. The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested that North Korea would have had to enlarge various parts of the original vessel to accommodate missile launch systems. Still, the vessel’s appearance hinted that it could “not be operated normally”.

Rising Tensions and Recent Developments

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated recently due to Kim’s rapid developments in weaponry and threats of nuclear conflict with the U.S. and its Asian allies. In reaction, the U.S., South Korea and Japan have increased their joint military exercises and strengthened their deterrence strategies using U.S. nuclear-capable assets. North Korea’s recent cruise missile launches followed a test firing of their first solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile on January 14. This demonstrated Kim’s continuing efforts to grow his weaponry, designed to subvert missile defenses in South Korea, Japan, and distant U.S. targets in the Pacific, including Guam.


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