Kim Oversees North Korea's Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile Test

Kim Oversees North Korea’s Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile Test

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has celebrated the successful test launch of a new strategic cruise missile from a submarine, describing it as a pivotal moment in strengthening the nation’s naval capabilities, according to state media on Monday.

In a series of recent weapons tests, North Korea has claimed advancements, including an “underwater nuclear weapon system” and a solid-fuelled hypersonic ballistic missile. Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with Sunday’s submarine-launched strategic cruise missile (SLCM) test, stating its strategic significance in modernizing the army and building a powerful naval force.

The North Korean leader also inspected the construction of a nuclear submarine and discussed the development of other new warships, according to the report.

The Pulhwasal-3-31, a new generation of strategic cruise missiles, was tested on Sunday, with Kim personally overseeing the launch. Cruise missiles, which tend to be jet-propelled and fly at lower altitudes, are harder to detect and intercept compared to ballistic missiles.

The exact sea-based launch capabilities of North Korea remain unclear, and previous tests were conducted from older vessels, including from a submerged platform rather than an actual submarine. The latest test signals a focus on improving naval power, aligning with decisions made at a year-end party meeting, indicating the direction of Pyongyang’s defense policy in the coming year.

Analysts suggest that North Korea may continue testing weapons systems mountable on submarines, potentially leading to the development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear-powered submarines, enhancing the country’s arsenal capabilities.

The development of a nuclear-tipped submarine-launched cruise missile could pose a new threat, giving North Korea a two-track nuclear attack means, combining mass destruction capabilities of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with the precision strike of a SLCM.

While North Korea already has an operational SLBM named the Pukguksong-3, the successful development of a submarine-launched cruise missile could elevate its arsenal to a new level, allowing deployment beyond the Korean peninsula and providing a second-strike capability in the event of an attack.

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