North Korea has been developing a 3,000-ton class diesel-powered submarine since 2009, with the new type aimed at being capable of loading four of its new submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), a researcher claimed on Wednesday.
During a bimonthly briefing held in Seoul, Kim Heung-kwang of North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) said the North had been developing a submarine that is bigger than Sinpo-class, the largest known North Korean submarine, for the last few years.
“From the various human intelligence sources we have gathered, Pyongyang since 2009 has been developing new 3,000-ton class submarines,” Kim said. “The goal is to finish the development by October, 2017.”
NKIS’ handbook, provided to the reporters, read that Pyongyang is showing confidence in completing the reinforcement work of the submarine’s body and remodeling of its interiors by 2014. The installation of new radar and new SLBMs are to be completed by the end of this year, it said.
“The North, in 2008, purchased two old submarines from Russia, and their plan is to use the parts from the two subs to make a new one.”
North Korea conducted its most recent SLBM test launch in the early morning of Wednesday last week. South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) said the projectile flew some 500 kilometers, while North Korean media described the launch as “the greatest success and victory,” NK News reported.
Kim Heung-kwang claimed that Pyongyang’s ultimate motivation for the submarine modification was in being able to load four of its new submarine-launched missiles into the new vessel.
“The decision for this development was made by Kim Jong Un and his advisors, who wanted to create an environment in which the U.S. and international society can’t easily underestimate the North’s preemptive nuclear strike capability,” Kim Heung-kwang said.
The new submarine, he added, was being developed in the Sinpo region, where Mayang-do naval base is located.
However, during the Q&A session Kim could not give out clear names or types of the two submarines that Pyongyang allegedly bought from Moscow.
Moon Keun-sik, the director of the Korea Defense and Security Forum and a former submarine commander, said the Russian type closest to NKIS’ description would be the Golf-class submarine, a diesel-electric ballistic missile-capable submarine from the Soviet-era.
“I think the plan to modify those submarines to make a new one is a very dangerous attempt,” Moon said. “Those submarines were commissioned in the ’50s and were decommissioned in the early ’90s. Even if the North bought them in 2008, they must have withered away too much to be used.”
The biggest and newest known North Korean submarine is its Sinpo-class submarine, which was spotted during the North’s successful May SLBM launch from the last year.
The Sinpo-class submarine measures about 67 meters in length and can carry a single Pukkuksong-1 SLBM in its conning tower, with a displacement of just 2,000 tons, a previous NK News analysis read.
In addition to the new submarine, Kim Heung-kwang said that the North is also planning to construct new nuclear-powered 3500-ton class submarine by the year 2018.
NKIS’ announcement was released two days after the floor-leader of South Korea’s ruling party urged the military to develop a nuclear-powered submarine to counter increasing threats from North Korea’s naval forces.
Featured Image: Korea Central News Agency
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