SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea is building two new submarines, including one capable of firing ballistic missiles, a South Korean lawmaker said on Tuesday, following a closed-door briefing by the South’s National Intelligence Service.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet but only one known experimental submarine capable of carrying a ballistic missile.
“One of the submarines North Korea is building can carry a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM),” Ha Tae-keung, an opposition party lawmaker on parliament’s intelligence committee, told Reuters. “One is a modified Romeo Class and the other is a new medium-large size one.”
North Korea has been subject to U.N. Security Council sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have met three times since 2018, but failed to make progress on U.S. calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.
In July 2019 state media showed Kim inspecting a large, newly built submarine. While North Korea did not describe the submarine’s weapons systems, analysts said the apparent size of the vessel indicated it was designed to carry missiles.
Later that year North Korea said it had successfully test-fired a new SLBM from the sea, and last month it showcased a new SLBM design during a military parade in Pyongyang.
Kim’s vow to unveil new strategic weapons this year also led to speculation that North Korea could soon deploy an operational ballistic missile submarine.
North Korea showcased a total of 76 missiles in nine different types at a military parade on Oct. 10, including the country’s long-range weapons for the first time in two years, Yonhap news agency reported, citing Ha.
After months of speculation over Kim’s health, South Korea’s spies said there were no signs that the young leader was suffering from health problems, Yonhap reported.
The lawmaker also said there was circumstantial evidence indicating that Kim had ordered an investigation into the North Korean troops who shot dead a South Korean fisheries official who went missing in late September, Yonhap reported.
North Korea last week said the shooting of the South Korean man in its waters last month was a self-defensive measure amid concerns about the coronavirus.
Reporting by Sangmi Cha, additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Nick Macfie
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