North Korea attained capacity to launch tactical nuclear weapons from underwater, reported the Korean Central News Agency on Friday. Submarine No. 841- Hero Kim Un Ok named after a North Korean historical figure will be the primary “"underwater offensive means of the naval force" of North Korea, said leader Kim Jong Un at the launch ceremony on Wednesday. The submarine has been assigned to the fleet that patrols the naval waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the news agency reported.
The vessel is viewed to be an improved model of a Soviet-era Romeo-class submarine, which the country had acquired from China in the 1970s. Analysts added that the watercraft, equipped with 10 launch tube hatches indicated that it it was most likely to be armed with ballistic and cruise missiles. However, there is no specification about the number of missiles it can carry or fire. North Korea owns about 20 Romeo-class submarines powered by diesel-electric engines but are obsolete by modern standards. North Korea, although, has a large submarine fleet only the experimental ballistic missile submarine 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero) is known to have fired a missile.
Reception Across The Globe
Retired South Korean submarine captain Choi II said that the title “tactical” submarine suggests that it would carry smaller, short-range submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) or submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM) capable of only striking South Korea, Japan, or other regional targets and not the US mainland.
North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the recent launch caused an uproar in South Korea and Japan. drew condemnation from South Korea and Japan.
"North Korea's military activity is posing graver and more imminent threat to our country's security than before," said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Jakarta, and asked Beijing to address North Korea's nuclear threat, on Thursday.
Vann Van Diepen, a former US Government Weapons Expert who works with the 38 North Project in Washington said that the underwater artillery won’t add much value to North Korea’s robust land-based nuclear forces, as the submarines might not survive a war for that long.
"When this thing is field deployed, it's going to be quite vulnerable to allied anti-submarine warfare," he said. "So I think from a sort of hard-headed military standpoint this doesn't make a lot of sense.”
North Korea's Future Plans
Kim added that arming the navy with nuclear weapons was an urgent assignment and also promised more underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons for the naval forces.
"The submarine-launching ceremony heralded the beginning of a new chapter for bolstering up the naval force of the DPRK," the state news agency reported.
The country also plans to convert existing submarines into nuclear armed vessels, North Korean Leader Kim Jong 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 said in a speech, apparently referring to the United States and South Korea.
The launching ceremony came as North Korea nears the 75th anniversary of its founding day on Saturday. Kim has also been reported to travel to Russia this month to meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss weapon supplies to Moscow.