North Korea said on Friday it had tested an underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could create a “radioactive tsunami” – but analysts urged skepticism.
A report by the Korean state central news agency (KCNA) said the drone, dubbed the “Unmanned Underwater Nuclear Attack Ship ‘Haeil'”, was tested from March 21 to 23, navigating the country’s east coast waters for more than 59 hours before its test warhead was detonated on Thursday afternoon (23).
“The mission of this strategic nuclear weapon is to stealthily infiltrate operational waters and deliver a super-scale radioactive tsunami via underwater blast to destroy enemy naval attack groups and key operational ports,” the KCNA report said.
The report revealed that the weapon has been in development since 2012 and has undergone more than 50 tests over the past two years.
This week’s test “verified its reliability and safety and fully confirmed its lethal strike capability,” the KCNA report said, adding that the drone could be deployed from any port or towed by a surface vessel to begin its operations.
Analysts cast doubt on North Korea’s claims.
“Pyongyang’s latest claim of having a nuclear-capable underwater drone should be met with skepticism” because North Korea has offered no proof, said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
Writing on social media, Ankit Panda a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “I tend to take North Korea seriously, but I can’t rule out the possibility that this is an attempted fraud/psychological operation.”
“It would be unwise to allocate limited fizmat (fissile material) to a warhead to go on this thing, IMO, against more road mobile ballistic missiles,” added Panda. The idea of an unmanned submersible carrying a nuclear warhead is not unique to North Korea.
Russia claims to have developed the Poseidon torpedo, a nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear munitions. Its nuclear propulsion system would give Poseidon virtually unlimited range.
But Russia has offered no proof of a successful test of Poseidon and analysts suspect it could take years for deployment.
North Korea’s alleged new underwater weapon has key differences from the Poseidon.
It has conventional propulsion and is not launched from a submarine, meaning it would not be on par with the Russian torpedo, analysts said.
North Korea’s drone test claim comes at the same time that Pyongyang said it tested nuclear-capable cruise missiles this week.
Four of the subsonic missiles hit targets in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, after flying in oval and figure-8 patterns of 1,500 and 1,800 kilometers on Wednesday, KCNA reported.
Wednesday’s exercise “enabled strategic cruise missile units to familiarize themselves with procedures and processes for carrying out tactical nuclear strike missions,” the report said.
The state-run Rodong Sinmun released a series of photos on its website purportedly showing the cruise missiles and underwater drone.
The KCNA report said Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development was necessary to counter “the reckless military provocations that are being intensified by the US and South Korean authorities”.
US and South Korean forces have held their biggest war games in five years in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea has been testing several missiles at the same time, including testing an intercontinental ballistic missile last week and testing shorter-range missiles such as the cruise missiles tested on Wednesday.
Analysts say Pyongyang is sending a message to the United States and its allies in the region.
“North Korea’s ICBM tests are veiled threats that could potentially destroy American cities,” Easley said.
“His recent short-range missile fires attempt to increase the credibility, command and control of his self-proclaimed tactical nuclear weapons units aimed at South Korea and Japan.”
Source: CNN Brasil
Bruce Belcher is a seasoned author with over 5 years of experience in world news. He writes for online news websites and provides in-depth analysis on the world stock market. Bruce is known for his insightful perspectives and commitment to keeping the public informed.