North Korea Unveils 'Nuclear Attack Submarine'

It's based on Soviet-era technology, analysts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2023 6:46 AM CDT
North Korea Unveils 'Nuclear Attack Submarine'
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un waves to participants during the launching ceremony.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea has unveiled what the government says is a "nuclear attack submarine" that extends the country's nuclear capabilities by "leaps and bounds." State media released photos of Kim Jong Un at a launch ceremony this week for the "Hero Kim Kun Ok," named after a North Korean historical figure, the BBC reports. State media said the submarine was designed to launch tactical nuclear missiles from underwater and will join the fleet that patrols between the Korean peninsula and Japan, reports Reuters. Photos suggest the sub could carry up to 10 nuclear missiles, analysts say.

Analysts say the sub appears to be a converted Soviet-era Romeo-class vessel. North Korea is believed to have around 20 diesel-electric Romeo-class subs, which have limited range and are noisy compared to modern submarines. "This submarine, though heavily modified, is based on 1950s Soviet-origin technology and will have inherent limitations. Nevertheless, in terms of complicating the targeting challenges that the US and its allies will face, the submarine will serve North Korea's purposes," Ankit Panda at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace tells the AP.

South Korean military officials said there "are signs of deception or exaggeration" and images of the sub released by North Korea suggest it could not be "operated normally." But it could still represent a "huge leap in capabilities for North Korea," Al Jazeera reports, and Kim might seek to trade weapons for more advanced submarine technology when he meets Vladimir Putin later this month. (More North Korea stories.)

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