North Korea’s submarine revived the fear of North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities, since it could potentially provide a mobile launch platform to strike from anywhere in the Pacific.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, when Kim Jong Un went missing for weeks, there was a lot of speculation over what that might mean for the North Korean leadership. But it turns out all the fuss was about small cyst, and when Kim Jong Un returned to the public eye this past week, he made his presence well known by having 10 top officials executed for watching soap operas.
Based upon the photos released, it appears Kim Jong Un has also been monitoring the development of North Korea’s submarine. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, military analyst Joseph Bermudez believes it’s possible they could turn the aging Golf-class sub into a launch platform for North Korea’s nuclear missiles, but Kim Jong Un may be hesitant to place such power into the hands of a submarine captain.
“If the North decides to pursue such a capability, it is likely to take years to design, develop, manufacture and deploy an operational submarine-launched ballistic missile force,” Bermudez said. “While the development of submarines carrying ballistic missiles could provide North Korea with a survivable second-strike nuclear capability… it also assumes that Pyongyang would entrust an operational nuclear-armed missile to the captain of a submarine who would, in time of war, most likely be out of communication with the leadership.”
Satellite images show that North Korea is developing this technology at the Sinpo South Shipyard, but it’s been a long time coming. According to Yonhap News Agency, the Soviet Union initially developed the 3,500 ton Golf II class diesel-powered submarines under the name Project 629 way back in 1958. Originally, each submarine was designed to carry three liquid-propellant ballistic missiles, one nuclear warhead and six torpedo tubes.
The Soviet Union decommissioned this class of submarine back in 1990, but after the Soviet Union fell, about 10 of these submarines were sold to North Korea in 1993. Satellite images also revealed that the work to develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles started in 2010. Although North Korea’s submarine fleet has had over 20 years to be developed, the only major modification identified in the last four years has been the addition of an R-21 model submarine ballistic missile (SLBM), which has a maximum range of about 1,420 kilometers and carries a 1,180-kilogram warhead.
Launching North Korea’s nuclear missiles from a submarine is the ultimate goal, according to South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok. North Korea has conducted three successful nuclear weapons tests since 2006, and it’s believed Kim Jong Un wants his submarine fleet updated so they can launch SSN6 Masudan nuclear missiles, which can hold a one megaton warhead.
The US-Korea Institute, a strategic think-tank on North-South Korean relations, states that North Korea’s submarine launch capabilities will be limited by the types of missiles they hope to use.
“North Korea’s capabilities would be stretched to their limit if it used a large liquid-fueled system such as a naval version of the Musudan intermediate-range or Nodong medium-range ballistic missile. A naval version of the liquid-fueled Scud … or an entirely new system would likely present less of an engineering challenge.”
According to Bloomberg, Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation believes that developing this technology should stretch North Korean engineers to their limit.
“The North Koreans are poor, but not stupid, and they do have some pretty good engineers, especially in weapons areas,” said Cheng. “But modifying a submarine is no mean feat, and would take a lot of time and be risky, especially as it would require compromising the hull’s integrity and would likely make a fairly noisy boat even noisier.”
Fortunately, due to the distances involved, North Korea’s nuclear submarines would not be capable of hitting the United States from their native waters, although South Korea, Japan and all of southeast Asia may have a new reason to worry. An unidentified military source in Seoul claims, “It would take one or two years before the North completes the test for the vertical launch of missiles from the sea.”