Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, inspected a massive newly built submarine according to a Tuesday report by state news agency KCNA. This potentially signals the continued development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programm.
Kim inspected the operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems of the new submarine which was built under “his special attention” and will be operational in the waters off the east coast of the country, KCNA said.
The news outlet also said the submarine’s operational deployment was near.
“The operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in the national defense of our country bounded on its east and west by sea,” Kim said.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known experimental submarine capable of carrying a ballistic missile.
Analysts said that because of 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 U.S.-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 U.S. policy with the utmost seriousness. ”
North Korea has continued to make quick progress in the SLBM program and successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in 2016.
Kim has declared a moratorium on testing ICBMs and nuclear weapons while engaging in denuclearization talks with the United States and South Korea.
During the submarine inspection Kim was accompanied by officials who have played a major role in missile development, and probably nuclear weapons.
“This, to my eye, is the submarine that the U.S. intelligence community has been calling the Sinpo-C, a successor to North Korea’s only known ballistic missile submarine,” Panda said.