North Korea has inaugurated its inaugural “tactical nuclear attack submarine” in a ceremony attended by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Named “Hero Kim Kun Ok,” the submarine is set to join the fleet responsible for patrolling the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, as reported by state media on Friday.
State newswire KCNA declared that the vessel would “perform its combat mission as one of the core underwater offensive assets of the naval force,” marking a significant development for the North Korean Navy.
“North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Reveals Nation’s First ‘Tactical Nuclear Attack Submarine'”
During the ceremony held at the Sinpho shipyard on the east coast, Kim Jong-un, sporting a beige suit and matching panama hat, emphasized that the rapid advancement of the naval force was a “top priority” in national defense. He cited the need to address geopolitical challenges and recent “aggressive attempts by the enemies.”
Analysts suggest that the newly revealed vessel is a modified version of the Soviet-era Romeo-class submarine, which North Korea acquired from China in the 1970s and subsequently began domestic production. With its design featuring ten launch tube hatches, it is likely armed with ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
Kim asserted that there was “no room to step back” and urged the swift transfer of “underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons” to the navy. Tactical nuclear weapons are typically designed for short-range use, unlike strategic weapons capable of striking distant targets, such as the United States.
Over the past year, North Korea has been enhancing its naval capabilities, including the development of an underwater drone, warships, and its first operational missile submarine.
Kim proudly stated that the new submarine possessed both “preemptive and retaliatory strike” capabilities. Experts believe it can likely carry nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and smaller missiles.
According to Tal Inbar, an Israel-based missile researcher, the vessel “can carry a combination of SLBMs and cruise missiles, both equipped with nuclear warheads.”
The unveiling of this submarine coincides with North Korea’s preparations to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding, which is expected to involve a military parade in Pyongyang attended by a high-level Chinese delegation.
Last weekend, Pyongyang conducted a “simulated tactical nuclear attack” drill involving mock atomic warheads attached to two long-range cruise missiles, which were test-fired into the ocean. KCNA stated that the exercise served as a warning about the “actual nuclear war danger” in response to joint military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea.
While the allies have emphasized the defensive nature of their activities, Pyongyang has accused Seoul and Washington of escalating tensions in the region.
Recently, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan pledged to enhance their military cooperation and leaders’ summits.
There are also indications that Kim may seek a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to request advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, potentially involving the exchange of North Korea’s artillery shells for assistance in Putin’s Ukraine conflict.
South Korea’s military has noted that the submarine does not appear ready for regular operations and has observed signs that North Korea may be exaggerating its capabilities.