Kim Jong-un tests underwater nuclear attack drone capable of 'radioactive tsunami'
Kim Jong-Un personally tested a clandestine underwater nuclear attack drone capable of unleashing a radioactive tsunami on enemy naval ships and ports, Pyongyang has claimed.
State media outlet KCNA said the “secret weapon” had been put into position and tested this week, between Tuesday and Thursday, and that it could be deployed in future at “any coast and port or towed by a surface ship for operation”.
It named the unmanned underwater nuclear attacking vessel “Haeil” and said it had been under development since 2012. Kim personally guided tests of the weapon 29 times and its operational deployment had been given the green light by the ruling party’s top leadership, it added.
It said its mission was to stealthily enter waters where adversaries were operating to create “superpower radioactive tidal waves with underwater explosion,” adding tests had been conducted at a depth of 80-150 metres for over 59 hours before hitting a mock enemy port near Hongwon Bay on the east coast.
Experts urged caution towards Pyongyang’s claims, which come at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and coincide with joint US-South Korea military drills, which the North has denounced as a rehearsal for war.
"Pyongyang’s latest claim to have a nuclear-capable underwater drone should be met with scepticism," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
"But it is clearly intended to show that the Kim regime has so many different means of nuclear attack that any preemptive or decapitation strike against it would fail disastrously."
Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted: “I tend to take North Korea seriously, but can't rule out the possibility that this is an attempt at deception/psyop.
“Would be ill-advised to allocate limited fizmat (fissile material) for a warhead to go in this thing, IMO, vs. more road-mobile ballistic missiles."
Pyongyang has claimed the test, and also the launch earlier this week of “Hwasal-1” and “Hwasal-2” strategic cruise missiles "tipped with a test warhead simulating a nuclear warhead” are in response to “intentional, persistent and provocative war exercises” south of the border.
First-ever video footage of North Korea's long-range Hwasal-1/Hwasal-2 'strategic' cruise missiles. (via KCTV) pic.twitter.com/Bv5MbPDP7B
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) March 24, 2023
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Friday he will make sure North Korea pays a price for its "reckless provocations".
South Korea and US forces kicked off their largest joint drills in five years on March 13. Several have been conducted at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex within a few miles of the North Korean border, and Seoul and Washington insist they are defensive in nature.
Joint South Korea/US live fire drills on Weds near the border with North Korea, which both forces stress are defensive in nature. Taking place just hours after Pyongyang fired multiple suspected cruise missiles from its eastern coast pic.twitter.com/N6rRkc90Uh
— Nicola Smith (@niccijsmith) March 22, 2023
On Wednesday, hours after Pyongyang’s cruise missile launch, the two allies blasted a mountain near the South Korean city of Pocheon using M-777 and K-9 howitzers and K1A1 battle tanks in a live fire exercise involving 800 US and 400 South Korean soldiers.
“Nothing motivates US soldiers to be all they can be more than sleeping ten miles from an adversary and when that adversary is firing ballistic missiles it provides an incredible focus to this training,” Colonel Brandon Anderson, second infantry division deputy commanding officer, said ahead of the drill.
“This focused training is really what we expect to do at a time of conflict – defeat the enemy and secure weapons of mass destruction.”
North Korea last year declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power and Kim recently called for an "exponential" increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.
On Thursday Lee Jong-sup, the South Korean defence minister, confirmed to the national parliament that four cruise missiles had been fired on Wednesday, acknowledging that Pyongyang had made “considerable” progress towards its goal of mounting miniature nuclear warheads onto tactical weapons.
Weapons analysts were quick to point out the similarities with claims from Russian state media earlier this year that Moscow has built an “unstoppable” nuclear torpedo intended to devastate coastal cities or even wipe out London by creating radioactive tsunamis.
The assertion that Russia has developed the Poseidon torpedo, a submarine-launched, nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear munitions have also been met with heavy scepticism.
Mr Panda there had been no previous indication that such a weapons programme existed in North Korea.
He told NK News that the surprise reveal “fits into Pyongyang’s broader ongoing efforts to diversify its means of nuclear weapons delivery”.
But he said questions remain over “just how serious this programme really is” and that the system “will be vulnerable to anti-submarine warfare efforts, particularly in waters away from the North Korean coastline”.