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 carrying out nuclear strikes. .
The drone was launched from North Korea’s east coast on Tuesday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. The report said it traveled underwater for more than 59 hours, reaching its target on Thursday afternoon, and that its “test warhead”, not an actual nuclear device, had detonated underwater. The purpose was not specified.
The drone, called Haeil, or tsunami, was designed to infiltrate enemy waters and “make a large-scale radioactive tsunami via underwater explosion” to destroy ships and ports, according to the report. State media published photos of North leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a torpedo-shaped vehicle in a warehouse and a similar vehicle traveling and detonating underwater.
There was no independent confirmation that the test had been done. The South Korean military, which usually confirms North Korean ballistic missile tests shortly after they occur, 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 launched could be equipped with nuclear warheads.
On Friday, North Korea made such a claim about strategic cruise missiles that launched off its east coast on Wednesday. The test warheads of the missiles were detonated in the air to check their “nuclear explosion control devices and detonators”, state media said. Earlier in the week, state media had said that a ballistic missile test it conducted on Sunday also involved the detonation of 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 capabilities that state media often say it has. The North claims to have nuclear warheads that are small and light enough to mount on drones, as well as short-range and cruise missiles.
South Korea has said it is carefully evaluating the North’s evolving capabilities, which it says the Kim government has often exaggerated.
“It’s hard to determine which part of North Korea’s claim we can trust,” Kim Dong-yub, a North Korean weapons expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, saying of the reported drone test. But it would be wise not to underestimate the North, he said, noting that other nations had been developing various unmanned underwater weapon systems.
The North Korean report says the drone could be towed by a ship and launched into the sea, which, if the drone were nuclear capable, would extend the range of its nuclear arsenal. North Korea has tried 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 being “strengthened at greater speed,” state media said. He also said the United States and South Korea must stop their “reckless” joint military exercises, which the North calls rehearsals for an invasion.
The two allies ended an 11-day joint exercise on Thursday, the largest in years in terms of the number of troops involved. They are also in the middle of a separate exercise, involving a simulated amphibious landing, which will continue until early April.
North Korea’s underwater drone test, if ever, took place as a fleet of South Korean and American ships joined the amphibious landing exercise, sailing toward Pohang, a port city on the east coast of North Korea. South. Next week, the US aircraft carrier Nimitz is scheduled to visit the largest port city of Busan.