North Korea Launches Soviet-Era Submarine Capable Of Firing Ballistic Missiles

North Korea has launched a Soviet submarine designed to fire ballistic missiles, raising new concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, though analysts caution that the reclusive nation’s weapons capacity should not be overstated.

The vessel is reportedly a refurbished Soviet Golf II class submarine, which North Korea acquired in 1993, according to the Telegraph. Though the submarine was obsolete and the Russian military asserted it could not be returned to service, analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University believe that North Korea has spent the last 20 years examining and replicating the vessel’s missile launch systems.

While intelligence sources from South Korea and the United States have recently warned that the North may soon be capable of producing miniaturized nuclear warheads, some reports suggest that they may have already perfected the process. Were North Korea to equip and deploy a submarine with nuclear weapons, the security threat to South Korea and Japan would be greatly increased. Analysts believe installation of launch tubes and firing systems could be completed within the next two years.

Military analyst Joseph Bermudez noted that while the potential for North Korea to deploy ballistic missiles from a submarine should not be ignored, neither should it be exaggerated.

“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,” he observed.

“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 have revealed a test stand at North Korea’s Sinpo South Shipyard that is thought to be designed for submarine missile launch tests, according to the International Business Times. A new class of submarine has also been identified, berthed at a nearby dock.

Recently, Sweden’s military was mobilized amid fears that a Russian submarine had ventured into their territorial waters, reaching within 31 miles of Stockholm. As the Inquisitr reported, Russian authorities have repeatedly denied sending a submarine into the area.

North Korea possesses the world’s largest submarine fleet, according to Global Firepower, with 78 vessels, compared to the 72 held by the United States. The vast majority of North Korea’s fleet, however, consists of Soviet or Chinese submarines that are obsolete.

[Image: Rodong Sinmun via the Telegraph]