Thursday 22 August 2019

Kim's submarine inspection may signal missile activity

Inspection: Kim talks to reporters during his visit to the submarine at an undisclosed location. Photo: AFP
Inspection: Kim talks to reporters during his visit to the submarine at an undisclosed location. Photo: AFP

Josh Smith and Joyce Lee

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a new submarine, which could signal continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile programme.

The state news agency KCNA said yesterday Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and weapon systems of the submarine that was built under "his special attention".

KCNA added that the submarine's operational deployment off the east coast was near.

"The operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in national defence of our country bounded on its east and west by sea," Kim said.

KCNA did not describe the submarine's weapon systems or say where and when the inspection took place. North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known to be capable of carrying a ballistic missile.

Analysts said that based on the apparent size of the new submarine it appears designed to eventually carry missiles.

"We can clearly see that it is a massive submarine - much larger than the existing one that's been well known since 2014," said Ankit Panda, senior fellow at the US-based Federation of American Scientists.

"What I find significant about the political messaging here is that this is the first time since a February 2018 military parade that he has inspected a military system clearly designed to carry and deliver nuclear weapons.

"I take that as an ominous signal that we should be taking Kim Jong-un's end-of-year deadline for the implementation of a change in US policy with the utmost seriousness."

Kim has called a halt to testing ICBMs and nuclear weapons while engaged in denuclearisation talks with the US and South Korea.

In April, he said he would wait until the end of the year for the US to be "more flexible" on the sanctions relief

During the submarine visit, Kim was accompanied by Kim Jong Sik, an official who played a major role in North Korea's missile programme.

US-based monitoring group 38 North said in June 2018 that, based on satellite images, North Korea appeared to be continuing construction at its Sinpo Shipyard of possibly another Sinpo-class ballistic missile submarine, based on commercial satellite imagery.

"This, to my eye, is the submarine the US intelligence community has been calling the Sinpo-C, a successor to North Korea's only known ballistic missile submarine," said Mr Panda.

Irish Independent

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