Kim Jong-un launches attack submarine able to fire nuclear missiles – but experts say the tinpot vessel might not work | The Sun

KIM Jong-un grinned as he launched his latest atomic toy – North Korea's first nuclear attack submarine.

But experts have cast doubt over whether the tinpot sub actually works as the tyrant claims.

As he unveiled his new vessel, Kim – donning acaptain's hat and cream suit – described the milestone as crucial in his efforts to build a nuclear-armed navy to counter the United States and its Asian allies.

The sub, named Hero Kim Kun Ok, is designed to launch tactical nuclear weapons from underwater.

Kim told guests at a grand ceremony that it is "equipped with a large number of nuclear delivery means” and capable of "preemptive and retaliatory strikes against hostile countries”.

But officials in South Korea are skeptical over whether the sub actually poses any real threat.

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South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the submarine was "not capable of normal operation" and accused Kim’s regime of trying to exaggerate its capabilities.

The vessel's development, however, highlights how the hermit kingdom continues to ramp up its nuclear arsenal with systems that are harder to detect in advance.

It is thought the submarine is the same one Kim inspected in 2019 while it was under construction.

At the time, experts assessed it as an effort to convert an existing Romeo-class, Soviet-era, submarine.

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The submarine appears to have at least ten launch tubes four of them apparently larger than the other six that are possibly designed for missiles.

Though heavily modified, it is based on 1950s Soviet-origin technology and will have inherent limitations.

In recent years, North Korea has tested a variety of missiles designed to be fired from submarines as it pursues the ability to conduct nuclear strikes from underwater.

In theory, such capacity would bolster its deterrent by ensuring a survivable capability to retaliate after absorbing a nuclear attack on land.

Ballistic missile submarines would also add a maritime threat to the North's growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from land vehicles that are designed to overwhelm missile defenses in South Korea and Japan.

It would take considerable time, resources and technological improvements for the heavily sanctioned nation to build a fleet of at least several submarines that could travel quietly and execute attacks reliably, analysts say.

At a self-congratulatory ceremony at the Sinpho shipyard, Kim said the country is also pursuing a nuclear-propelled submarine.

He said he plans to remodel its existing submarines and surface vessels so they can handle nuclear weapons.

Nuclear-propelled submarines can quietly travel long distances and approach enemy shores to deliver strikes.

They are among a long list of advanced weapons systems Kim has been openly pursuing as he attempts to build a nuclear arsenal that could viably threaten the US mainland.

Kim insisted that the submarine revealed this week would be just as daunting to his enemies as the nuclear-propelled submarine North Korea plans to acquire in the future.

North Korea previously had only one known submarine capable of firing a missile, but that vessel has a single launch tube and analysts considered it a test platform.

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North Korea has an estimated 70-90 diesel-powered submarines in one of the world's largest submarine fleets.

But they are mostly aging subs capable of launching only torpedoes and mines, not missiles.

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