Kim Jong-un unveils new 'tactical nuclear attack submarine'

North Korea's authoritarian leader says the new weapon is capable of both a 'preemptive and retaliatory strike'

Kim Jong-un with the new submarine
Kim Jong-un visited the Sinpho shipyard Credit: KCNA/Reuters

North Korea has launched a newly built “tactical nuclear attack submarine” during a ceremony attended by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

The submarine, named “Hero Kim Kun Ok” is the first of its kind and would “perform its combat mission as one of the core underwater offensives means of the naval force,” said state newswire KCNA on Friday, heralding a “new chapter” for the Navy.

Kim, who wore a beige suit and matching panama hat for the ceremony at the east coast Sinpho shipyard, told officers the rapid development of the naval force was the “top priority” for national defence to meet geopolitical challenges, as well as “recent aggressive attempts by the enemies.”

The authoritarian leader wore a beige suit and matching panama hat for the ceremony Credit: KCNA/Reuters

Stressing there was “no room to step back,” he urged the swift transfer of “underwater and surface vessels equipped with tactical nuclear weapons” to the Navy.

The authoritarian leader boasted that the new vessel was capable of “both preemptive and retaliatory strike,” and experts told NK News it can likely carry nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and smaller missiles.

It “can carry a combination of SLBMs and cruise missiles, both equipped with nuclear warheads,” said Tal Inbar, an Israel-based missile researcher.

The submarine was unveiled as North Korea gears up to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding on Saturday, which is expected to be marked with a military parade in Pyongyang, attended by a high-level Chinese delegation.

State media published pictures of the submarine and a crowd gathering for the unveiling Credit: KCNA/Reuters

Last weekend, Pyongyang staged a “simulated tactical nuclear attack” drill with mock atomic warheads attached to two long-range cruise missiles that were test-fired into the ocean.

KCNA said the exercise was to warn enemies of the “actual nuclear war danger” in response to joint military drills by the United States and South Korea.

The allies said their live-fire exercises were based on a counterattack against invading forces, stressing their activities are defensive in nature, but Pyongyang has accused Seoul and Washington of escalating tensions in the region.

Last month, the US, South Korea and Japan pledged to step up their military cooperation and leaders’ summits.

This week, US officials warned Kim may travel to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin to seek help with advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, in exchange for offering him access to North Korea’s stocks of artillery shells for his Ukraine war.