N. Korea's new submarine likely to carry three ballistic missiles: defense ministry

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : July 31, 2019, 13:39 | Updated : July 31, 2019, 18:10

A picture released by Pyongyang's state media on July 23 showed leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a new submarine.[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- Based on photos released by Pyongyang's state media, South Korea's defense ministry gave a guess that North Korea appears to be building a new submarine capable of carrying three submarine-launched ballistic missiles by upgrading a 2,500-ton Gorae (whale)-class submarine in service.

The ministry said in a report to the National Assembly's intelligence committee that the North's new submarine appeared to be a little bigger than the Gorae-class submarine, according to committee head Lee Hye-hoon of the Bareun Future Party, a liberal-conservative opposition party.

Pictures published by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 23 showed a blurred part that is believed to be the location where the submarine's SLBM launch tube is mounted, the defense ministry was quoted as saying.

Because its estimated diameter is 7 meters, the new submarine might be 70 to 80 meters long, the ministry said, adding the submarine's appearance showed a lot of crude and poor welding.

Only one Sinpo-class submarine, also called Gorae-class, has been observed in service. It is North Korea's largest submarine which experts say is capable of carrying just one or two ballistic missiles.

At Sinpo, a northeastern port city in central South Hamgyong province, North Korea has a shipyard for 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 August 2016, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested an SLBM, saying it is now fully capable of launching a nuclear attack. At that time, experts said the missile called Pukguksong-1 (KN-11) was launched from the Gorae-class submarine and flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles).

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.

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