North Korea may have completed 80 percent of the work needed on submarines capable of launching SLBMs, or submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to a Japanese newspaper.
The Tokyo Shimbun reported Thursday that Pyongyang has two or three missile-launch capable submarines that are almost ready to be deployed.
The newspaper was citing a North Korean source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The submarines can be equipped with the newly developed Pukguksong-3, according to the report, and would join the 2,000-ton Sinpo-class submarine that has only one launcher.
North Korea’s submarines under development are bigger.
They would have a displacement of 3,000 tons and would be equipped with multiple launchers.
The new submarines are capable of staying submerged for longer periods of time because of air-independent propulsion technology that would allow the non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen.
The engine of the submarine is being built at the Pukchung Machinery Factory in Yongchon, North Pyongan Province, Tokyo Shimbun’s source said.
North Korea is building new weapons at a rapid pace, following an order from Kim Jong Un issued in June 2016.
Kim had told military officers a new submarine must be built before Sept. 9, 2018, the 70th anniversary of the founding day of the country.
North Korea launched the SLBM Pukguksong-2 on Feb. 12, and displayed a new missile during its April 15 military parade that experts have surmised may be the Pukguksong-3.
In August, Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun published an image of the North Korean leader, showing Kim Jong Un in a room that included what appeared to be missile parts, and a poster that read, “Pukguksong-3,” which has yet to undergo testing.
The U.S. Senate is reviewing a 2018 defense bill that includes a proposal to reconsider the relocation of submarine-launched nuclear cruise missiles to the Asia-Pacific, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.
By Elizabeth Shim