SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a newly built submarine that would carry out its duty in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, with its operational deployment "near at hand," Pyongyang's state agency said.
The submarine "will perform its duty in the operational waters of the East Sea of Korea and its operational deployment is near at hand," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday without disclosing the date of Kim's trip or location.
Kim said that "the operational capacity of a submarine is an important component in national defense of our country bounded on its east and west by sea" while stressing "the need to steadily and reliably increase the national defense capability by directing big efforts to the development of the naval weapons and equipment such as submarine," KCNA said.
At Sinpo, a northeastern port city in central South Hamgyong province, North Korea has a shipyard for the development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and submarines. The Sinpo base has a dock capable of producing a large submarine, and there have been unconfirmed reports that 3,000-ton submarines were under construction.
In June, 38 North, the website of a U.S. think tank, reported that North Korea has continued the construction of "possibly another SINPO-class ballistic missile submarine" in Sinpo.
South Korea's defense white paper showed North Korea operating some 70 submarines on active duty, including 20 Romeo-class (1,800 ton) submarines, 40 Sang-O class (325-ton) submarines and 10 midget Yono-class (130-ton) submarines. In Sinpo, the North has developed Sinpo class submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles.
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