North Korea has claimed to have launched a new nuclear attack submarine which it says has been under development for year.
Leader Kim Jong-un described the new addition to his fleet as crucial in his plans to be ready to counter the naval might of the United States and its Asian allies at the vessel’s launching ceremony on Wednesday and an onboard inspection on Thursday, according to state media reports.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the “Hero Kim Kun Ok” vessel is designed to launch tactical nuclear weapons from underwater.
KCNA did not specify the number of missiles the submarine could carry and fire.
According to KCNA, Mr Kim said: “The nuclear attack submarine, for decades a symbol of aggression against our republic, has now become a symbol of our revolutionary power to strike fear into the hearts of our despicable enemies.”
He insisted the submarine would be just as “daunting” to his enemies as the nuclear-propelled submarine North Korea plans to acquire in the future.
Mr Kim said: “In submarines, technical aspects such as the power system, submergence speed, and the level of navigational equipment are all very important and would generally define (the vessels’) operational capabilities, but nothing is more important than the type of weaponry that could be installed,” he said.
North Korea previously had only one known submarine capable of firing a missile.
That submersible has only one launch tube, leading analysts to consider it a test platform, rather than an active operational weapons system.
North Korea has one of the largest naval fleets in the world, made up of an estimated 70-90 diesel-powered submarines.
The submersibles are mostly aging ones capable of launching only torpedoes and mines, not missiles.
In July, the US docked a nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarine in South Korea for the first time since the 1980s.