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North Korea: Kim Jong Un inspects new submarine, possible sign of continued ballistic missile development

At an unspecified (but probably recent) date, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a large newly built submarine, state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, 23 July, echoed by CNBC. It may indicate North Korea is going on with the development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programme.

North Korea Kim Jong Un inspects new submarine possible sign of continued ballistic missile development Picture said to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit of a newly-built submarine (Picture source: Korea Central News Agency)

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, KCNA said. The news agency said the submarine’s operational deployment was near.

North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known experimental submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles well known since 2014. So seems this new one. Hence, caution is imposed regarding Kim’s actual nuclear intentions.

North Korea has made rapid progress in the SLBM program and in 2016, after a few years of development, successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine, while pursuing an intercontinental ballistic missile program (ICBM), CNBC reminds. During the submarine inspection, Kim was accompanied by officials who have played a major role in missile development, and probably nuclear weapons.

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