© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a state disaster prevention review meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea in this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (Korea) KCNA) announced on September 6, 2022. KCNA adopted
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea may be preparing to launch a new submarine believed to be capable of firing ballistic missiles, a US-based think tank reported on Thursday, citing satellite images. commercial crystal.
Pictures of the Sinpo South Shipyard, on the country’s east coast, from September 18 show six barges and ships clustered around the construction pier, 39 North, which monitors North Korea for know.
The report said: “While barges and a dock are occasionally observed around the submarine launch pier in the main construction hall, the presence of six ships and barges in the area has never before been observed. previously observed”, the report concluded that this activity suggested preparations for submarine launch.
Analysts first spotted signs that at least one new submarine was under construction in 2016, and in 2019 state media showed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a new submarine. The previously unreported submarine was built under his “special interest” and it will operate in the waters off the east coast.
State media at the time did not describe the submarine’s weapons system or say where or when the test took place, but analysts said the apparent size of the new vessel suggested it. designed to carry missiles.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known test submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles.
Analysts have debated whether the new missile submarine is clearly a new design or if it is based on a modified Romeo class of submarines originally acquired from China in the 1970s before before North Korea started producing them domestically.
Amid an unprecedented explosion of missile tests this year, North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in May from near Sinpo, where North Korea stores its submarines as well. as equipment for test firing SLBMs.
Observers say North Korea is prepared to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, amid stalled denuclearization talks.