The North Korean military has unveiled a new “tactical attack submarine” capable of launching nuclear missiles, with leader Kim Jong-un declaring the weapon would help Pyongyang become an “advanced maritime power.”
Dubbed the “Hero Kim Kun Ok,” the submarine was rolled out at a military ceremony on Wednesday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, noting that Kim and a number of top defense officials were present for the event.
The submarine will be “one of the core underwater offensive means of the DPRK naval force” once deployed, Kim said. He added that the development was part of a “strategic and tactical plan to continuously enhance the modernity of underwater and surface forces, and push forward with the nuclear weaponization of the Navy.”
Kim went on to hail the scientists, researchers and industrial workers involved in the submarine project, saying they were part of a “great cause of building an advanced maritime power.”
During a separate event on Thursday, Kim inspected the new sub in order to “acquaint himself with its weapon system and underwater operation capability,” according to KCNA. The agency said the vessel would be assigned to the East Sea Fleet of North Korea’s navy.
In addition to the nuclear-capable submarine, Pyongyang is also working to remodel existing subs to be equipped with atomic weapons, Kim continued, calling the initiative an “urgent task.”
Read more: North Korea conducts ‘nuclear strike’ drill
The news comes months after Washington opted to station its own nuclear submarine off the coast of South Korea for the first time since 1981. Though US officials said the deployment was intended to counter “provocations,” Pyongyang warned that the move would only “bring the regional military tension to a more critical state and may incite the worst crisis of nuclear conflict in practice.”
Tensions between the United States and North Korea have steadily escalated in recent months, with US forces engaging in a flurry of military exercises with South Korean and Japanese partners. Pyongyang has responded with dozens of weapons tests, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and has repeatedly slammed the US-led war games as a rehearsal for a full-scale invasion.
Earlier on Thursday, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo jointly criticized North Korea’s latest missile test, announcing that they would step up missile-tracking cooperation and hold another round of training in the coming weeks.