Kim Jong-un announces N. Korea has finalized its designs for nuclear submarine

Posted on : 2021-01-11 19:52 KST Modified on : 2021-01-11 19:52 KST
N. Korean leader emphasizes national defense as “collateral” to back diplomacy
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fourth meeting of the 8th WPK Congress on Jan. 8. (KCNA/Yonhap News)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fourth meeting of the 8th WPK Congress on Jan. 8. (KCNA/Yonhap News)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that research on the design of a new nuclear-powered submarine was “in the stage of final examination,” the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported on Jan. 9.

Delivering a three-day report on the North Korea’s “great programme for struggle” at the 8th Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Congress, Kim was quoted by the Rodong Sinmun as saying the tasks of “possessing a nuclear-powered submarine and an underwater-launch nuclear strategic weapon” had been “brought up.” This is the first time Kim has spoken publicly about nuclear-powered submarine development.

At the fifth plenary session of the 7th WPK Central Committee on Dec. 28-31, 2019, Kim declared that the “world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future.” The “new strategic weapon” in question appears to be the “new nuclear-powered submarine.”

Kim also hinted that the submarine’s development would be used as a “powerful means” diplomatically, declaring that “the strong defence capability of the state never precludes diplomacy but serves as a powerful means to propel it along the right course and guarantee its success.”

He further announced plans to “develop and introduce hypersonic gliding flight warheads in a short period” and “push ahead with the development of solid-fuel engine-propelled inter-continental underwater and ground ballistic rockets as scheduled.” The Rodong Sinmun also quoted him as having “referred to the need to secure the ability of reconnaissance and information gathering based on operation of a military reconnaissance satellite in the near future, and conduct in real earnest the most important research to develop reconnaissance drones and other means of reconnaissance capable of penetrating the front up to 500 kilometers.”

Emphasizing the importance of developing tactical nuclear weapons, Kim was quoted by the newspaper as saying that “develop[ing] tactical nuclear weapons” and “continuously push[ing] ahead with the production of super-sized nuclear warheads” would enable North Korea to “thoroughly contain, control and handle on our own initiative various military threats on the Korean peninsula, which are inevitably accompanied [by] the nuclear threat.”

While the nuclear warhead-bearing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that North Korea has been developing to date chiefly target the US, the “tactical nuclear weapons” that Kim announced plans to develop could theoretically attack South Korea and Japan. It is therefore crucial to uncover the intent behind Kim’s development of tactical nuclear weapons.

The Rodong Sinmun also quoted Kim as having “set a goal of attaining an advanced capability for making a preemptive and retaliatory nuclear strike by further raising the rate of precision good enough to strike and annihilate any strategic targets within a range of 15, 000 kilometres with pinpoint accuracy.” While he did not mention the US outright, this amounted to a call to increase the precision of existing ICBMs such as the Hwasong-15 that are within firing range of the continental US.

“The reality shows that only when we bolster up our national defence capability without a moment's halt will we be able to contain the military threat from the US and achieve peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula,” Kim was quoted as saying.

The newspaper also reported that Kim had “solemnly clarified the revolutionary standpoint that the national defence capability, the cornerstone for the existence of the state and a reliable guarantee for defending the dignity and security of the country and people and peace, should be strengthened continuously.”

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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