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North Korea claims to have tested at sea a nuclear submarine drone capable of producing a 'radioactive tsunami'


Such a test would be the first of Kim Jong-un's weapons program. But there was no independent confirmation that it had occurred.

North Korea said on Friday it had used an underwater drone to practice launching a nuclear strike against an enemy seaport, saying threats from the United States and its allies were forcing it to develop various means of




. nuclear.

The drone was launched on Tuesday from the North's eastern coast, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un watching a cruise missile exercise in Jakdo-dong, South Hamgyong province, North Korea, on March 22, 2023 (.EFE/EPA/KCNA EDITORIAL USE ONLY

According to the report, it traveled underwater for more than 59 hours, hit its target on Thursday afternoon, and its "

test warhead

" - not an actual nuclear device - detonated underwater.

The purpose was not specified.

The drone, called Haeil, or tsunami, was designed to infiltrate enemy waters and "cause a


radioactive tsunami via underwater explosion" to destroy ships and ports, according to the report.

State media released photos of Northern leader

Kim Jong Un

inspecting a torpedo-shaped vehicle in a warehouse and another similar one traveling and detonating underwater.

There was no independent confirmation that the test had taken place.

The South Korean military, which usually confirms North Korean ballistic missile tests soon after they take place, said it was trying to determine whether the report was accurate, "taking several possibilities into account."

Testing an underwater attack drone, let alone one capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, would be a

first for the North


North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in recent months, claiming that some of the missiles it has launched could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

On Friday, North Korea made such a claim about the strategic cruise missiles it launched off its eastern coast on Wednesday.

The missiles' test warheads were detonated mid-flight to test their "nuclear explosion control devices and detonators," according to state media.

Earlier in the week, state media had claimed that a ballistic missile test on Sunday also detonated a simulated nuclear warhead.

Although North Korea has conducted six underground nuclear tests since 2016, it is unclear whether it has developed the kind of nuclear strike capability its state media often claims it has.

The North claims to have nuclear warheads small and light enough to be mounted on drones, as well as

cruise and short-range missiles.

South Korea has said it is carefully assessing developments in the North's capabilities, which it says the Kim government has often exaggerated.

Kim Dong-yub, an expert on North Korean weapons at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, South Korea, says that "it is difficult to determine to what extent we can trust North Korean claims."

But it would be wise not to underestimate the North, he said, noting that other nations have been developing various unmanned underwater weapon systems.

According to the North's report, the drone could be towed by a ship and launched while at sea, which, if the drone were nuclear-capable, would extend the range of its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea has been trying for years

to build a submarine

that can launch nuclear missiles far from its shores, but has yet to deploy one.

Kim Jong Un, while observing the weapons tests this week, called them proof that the North's "unlimited" nuclear deterrent was "strengthening at greater speed", according to state media.

He also said the United States and South Korea must end their "reckless"

joint military exercises,

which the North calls rehearsals for an invasion.

The two allies ended 11-day joint exercises on Thursday, the largest in years in terms of the number of troops involved.

They are also in the midst of another exercise, including an amphibious landing drill, which will continue through early April.

The North's underwater drone test, if it took place at all, came as a fleet of South Korean and US ships joined the amphibious landing exercise, sailing toward Pohang, a port city on South Korea's east coast.

Next week, the US aircraft carrier Nimitz is scheduled to visit the larger port city of Busan.

c.2023 The New York Times Company

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-03-24

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