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Intelligence Sources: North Korea Nears Completion of New Submarine

North Korea New Submarine
Image: KCNA.

19FortyFive has confirmed that North Korea is near completion of a submarine that is most likely configured to fire a ballistic missile, according to two senior Japanese intelligence officials.

Both sources confirmed recent reporting in Yonhap News on this subject.

In Yonhap’s report, a source added that “North Korea is reviewing the right timing to roll out the submarine for a strategic effect, including maximizing pressure against the United States.” The report also added that the “North could reveal the submarine at a launching ceremony and actually roll out an SLBM, such as the Pukguksong-3.”

What Might Be Coming

A former senior Trump White House official added that Pyongyang will almost surely unveil the submarine in the next few months, perhaps “even in weeks”, as North Korea will want to respond aggressively to any new pressure-based Biden Administration DRPK policy. Most North Korea watchers, including myself, expect the policy to be rolled out by the end of this month, if not perhaps sooner.

“North Korea seems ready to start an entirely more aggressive escalation spiral in the coming days and launching a new submarine, or what could be a somewhat modernized but older submarine of Soviet origin that can fire a solid-fueled ballistic missile would be one way to signal their displeasure and downright anger,” explained the former senior official. “I would not be shocked to wake up one morning to images of this submarine all over social media, or, a submarine unveiling with the sub then going out to see just days later and conducting a test firing. That would be a great way to show Joe Biden that it will not back down.”

Another former senior aid to Trump added that this “is just likely the beginning” of what North Korea might have in store for the Biden Administration. The former aid noted that “Pyongyang seems poised to test a variety of new weapons platforms, including new ballistic missile systems, of course, this new submarine, and perhaps much more, like a new ICBM design we saw paraded around the streets of Pyongyang in October of last year.”

Former U.S. Navy Official: Don’t Overhype the Threat 

A retired U.S. Navy official that spoke to 19FortyFive, while expressing his concern over North Korea’s submarine, also warned about “overhyping” such a potential threat.

“We have to remember any North Korea ballistic submarine, or any ballistic submarine in general needs to be quiet underwater to avoid detection in order to be a true nuclear deterrent,” explained the former Navy official. “I highly doubt these early North Korean efforts have included any real effort at noise signature masking, a technology most nations take decades to master. And that means the U.S. Navy and our allies can find and easily kill any such submarine.” The former official added that while there is a very “real threat from this submarine” it is likely “years if not a decade into the future.”

According to North Korea analysis portal Beyond Parallel overseen by. Dr. Victor Cha, North Korea has moved a submersible missile test stand barge at a shipyard on its east coast, citing recently obtained satellite images, another possible sign of a potential submarine missile test. Beyond Parallel did however note that “it is unclear if these movements portend preparations for a forthcoming submarine-launched ballistic missile test.”

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) serves as a Senior Director at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, D.C., a Washington D.C.-based think tank founded by President Richard Nixon in 1994. Kazianis in the past served as Editor-In-Chief of the Diplomat and as a national security-focused fellow at CSIS, the Potomac Foundation, and the University of Nottingham (UK). His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum.

Written By

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar task force in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.