N.K. leader oversees submarine-launched cruise missile test: state media

January 29, 2024

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen the test-fire of submarine-launched cruise missiles and reviewed a project to build a nuclear-powered submarine, state media reported Monday.

The new Pulhwasal-3-31 strategic cruise missile precisely hit an island target after flying over the East Sea for 7,421 seconds and 7,445 seconds, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, suggesting the test involved two missiles.

The flight time translates to two hours, three minutes and 41 seconds, and two hours, four minutes and five seconds, respectively. The KCNA did not give further details, including whether the missiles were launched from a submarine or a barge and how far they flew.

The South Korean military said Sunday it had detected the North’s launch of several cruise missiles at around 8 a.m. over waters near the eastern port city of Sinpo, where a shipyard to build a North Korean submarine is located.

The Pulhwasal-3-31 is a new cruise missile that the North test-fired for the first time Wednesday. Just four days after the first launch, North Korea conducted the missile tests under the leader’s supervision and disclosed that they were submarine-launched cruise missiles.

Cruise missiles, powered by jet engines, fly low and maneuver, making them hard to detect and intercept.

Kim stressed Sunday that “the nuclear weaponization of the navy is an urgent task of the times and a core requirement for building the state nuclear strategic force,” the KCNA said.

“He set forth the important tasks arising in realizing the nuclear weaponization of the navy and expanding the sphere of operation of the state nuclear deterrence in a diversified way,” it said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday it is weighing the possibility that North Korea might have “exaggerated” information on the missile’s flight time, adding that it is analyzing details of the launch platform.

The latest launch came as North Korea has been diversifying missile launch platforms to deliver nuclear weapons in a bid to bolster its capabilities to stage a surprise attack and evade the existing missile defense system.

The North’s leader also discussed issues related to the building of a nuclear-powered submarine and other new types of warships.

In September last year, North Korea unveiled what it claimed was its first tactical nuclear attack submarine capable of carrying out an underwater nuclear attack. At that time, Kim announced a plan to build more submarines, including a nuclear-powered sub.

A nuclear-powered submarine is on the list of high-tech weapons that the North’s leader vowed to develop during a key party congress in 2021, along with a hypersonic warhead, spy satellites and solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles.

South Korea’s unification ministry condemned North Korea for wasting scarce resources for the development of weapons while turning a blind eye to people’s livelihoods.

“The North unveiled a policy to develop the regional economy over the next decade. But even after 10 years, the improvement of livelihoods would be nothing but empty talk as long as the North squanders a shortage of resources for weapons development and provocations,” Koo Byoung-sam, spokesperson at the ministry, told a press briefing.

North Korea has ramped up weapons tests in the new year in what appears to be an effort to strengthen its capabilities to deliver nuclear warheads. Earlier this month, the North fired a solid-fuel hypersonic missile and launched what it claimed was an underwater nuclear attack drone.

During a year-end party meeting, Kim Jong-un defined inter-Korean ties as relations between “two states hostile to each other” and vowed to “suppress” the whole territory of South Korea in the event of a contingency.

At the latest parliamentary meeting, Kim called for revising the country’s constitution to define South Korea as the North’s “primary foe” and announced the country will abandon its decadeslong policy of seeking reconciliation and unification with the South.