published : 2023-09-08

North Korea Deploys First Tactical Nuclear Attack Submarine: Reports

Submarine Named After Historic Figure, Hero Kim Kun Ok

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the submarine's launch ceremony on Wednesday, captured with a Nikon D850.

North Korea has reportedly deployed its first nuclear attack submarine as part of a fleet that patrols the Sea of Japan, between the Korean peninsula and Japan, state media reported.

Reuters reported that news agency KCNA said Kim Jong Un attended the submarine’s launch ceremony Wednesday.

Aerial view of the Sea of Japan, where the fleet patrols, taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

The North Korean leader said arming the country’s navy with nuclear weapons was a very high priority, promising to send more vessels armed with nuclear weapons to the military branch.

The submarine-launching ceremony heralded the beginning of a new chapter for bolstering up the naval force of the DPRK, according to KCNA.

Historical figure Hero Kim Kun Ok depicted in an artistic portrait, photographed using a Canon EOS R.

The submarine has been named after one of the country’s historical figures, Hero Kim Kun OK, and Kim said it will perform as one of the core underwater offensive means of the naval force.

Analysts saw signs in 2016 that at least one new submarine was being built, and in 2019, state media showed Kim inspecting a submarine reportedly built under his 'special attention' for operations off the country’s east coast.

Close-up of the submarine named after Hero Kim Kun Ok, featuring its sleek design, captured with a Sony A7III.

Photos taken of a North Korean shipyard in August 2019 suggested the country could be building a submarine that could potentially be capable of launching a nuclear missile.

In March, North Korea test-fired two 'strategic cruise missiles' from a submarine near Kyongpho Bay off the country’s east coast, confirming the reliability of the weapon system and examining the underwater-to-surface offensive operations of submarine units.

Kim Jong Un inspecting the submarine built under his 'special attention', photographed with a Nikon Z6.

While it is not clear if North Korea has fully developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) or short-range SLBMs and cruise missiles, analysts suggest this would likely be a goal if North Korea intends to resume nuclear testing.

Submarine No. 841 is the first tactical nuclear attack submarine in North Korea's large submarine fleet, with only one known submarine, the experimental ballistic missile submarine 8.24 Yongung, having launched a missile.

Images showing the North Korean shipyard where the potentially nuclear-launch capable submarine was built, captured using a DJI Mavic Air 2.

Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance senior research fellow Tal Inbar posted images of the new submarine, highlighting its potential for several ballistic and cruise missiles.