Kim Jong Un and North Korea unveils new nuclear submarine: Counters the US Navy

Written by Jakob A. Overgaard

Sep.08 - 2023 8:50 AM CET

Photo: Jumpstory
Photo: Jumpstory
In a significant move, North Korea recently announced the completion of a nuclear attack submarine, a development that leader Kim Jong Un believes is pivotal in his quest to establish a nuclear-armed navy to challenge the United States and its Asian allies.

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The submarine, christened "Hero Kim Kun Ok," is reportedly designed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons from beneath the sea. However, the exact missile capacity of the vessel remains undisclosed.

While North Korean officials have been vocal about the submarine's capabilities, South Korean authorities have expressed doubts regarding its operational readiness. Despite these reservations, the development of this submarine highlights North Korea's ongoing efforts to expand the reach of its nuclear arsenal through systems that are more challenging to detect preemptively.

Evidence suggests that this submarine might be a modified version of an existing Romeo-class submarine that Kim Jong Un inspected back in 2019. The vessel seems to be equipped with at least ten launch tubes, with four appearing larger than the rest, possibly intended for missiles.

Ankit Panda, an expert from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, commented on the submarine's design. He mentioned that while the submarine is based on outdated 1950s Soviet technology and has its limitations, it still serves North Korea's strategic objectives by complicating the targeting challenges faced by the US and its allies.

In the past, North Korea has tested various missiles intended for submarine launches, aiming to enhance its underwater nuclear strike capabilities. Such capabilities would theoretically strengthen its deterrence by ensuring a retaliatory strike capability even after a land-based nuclear attack.

The introduction of ballistic missile submarines would also pose a maritime threat, complementing North Korea's existing arsenal of solid-fuel weapons launched from land vehicles. These weapons are designed to bypass missile defenses in countries like South Korea and Japan.

However, experts believe that it would require significant time, resources, and technological advancements for North Korea to develop a fleet of submarines capable of silently traveling and executing attacks efficiently.

During the submarine's launch ceremony, Kim Jong Un expressed his satisfaction with North Korea's achievement, emphasizing the nation's intent to counter the US's advanced naval assets. He also revealed plans to develop a nuclear-propelled submarine and retrofit existing vessels to accommodate nuclear weapons.

South Korea's military, on the other hand, believes North Korea might be overstating the submarine's capabilities. They pointed out modifications made to the original vessel to fit missile launch systems, suggesting that the submarine might not operate as intended.

Recent developments indicate Kim Jong Un's increased focus on bolstering the country's naval strength. Some analysts speculate this could be a move to enhance military cooperation with Russia, which has hinted at joint military exercises.