North Korea announced on Friday that it had tested a nuclear-capable underwater drone, which it claims can generate a massive “radioactive tsunami.”
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) reported on March 24 that the “new underwater attack weapon system” had been in development since 2012.
“The mission of the underwater nuclear strategic weapon is to stealthily infiltrate into operational waters and make a super-scale radioactive tsunami through underwater explosion to destroy naval striker groups and major operational ports of the enemy,” the report said.
The weapons test on March 23 was reportedly successful, traveling for nearly 60 hours along the predetermined course underwater before detonating upon reaching its mock target.
The news comes as military tensions between North Korea and the United States continue to escalate. It also furthers Pyongyang’s commitment to nuclear threats as a tactic to assert itself in the global order.
In the past week, North Korea has flexed its military muscles by firing cruise missiles and simulating a virtual nuclear counterattack on South Korea, as The Dallas Express reported. This has been a forceful response to the recent 11-day joint military exercise run by the U.S. and South Korea known as Freedom Shield.
These drills were the largest seen in years, which Pyongyang interprets as a direct threat.
“The intentional, persistent and provocative war drills and confrontational stance of the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet regime of traitors have driven the military and political situation of the Korean peninsula to an irreversibly dangerous point,” KNCA reported.
This technology apparently exists, as Russia’s Poseidon — an unmanned large-scale torpedo — can reportedly carry nuclear munitions and has intercontinental range. It is unknown whether it has been tested or is deployable, per CNN.
Many are skeptical that the latest weapon, named “Haeil” — the Korean word for tsunamis — exists or has the capacities that North Korea claims.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup told lawmakers that while the country has made “significant progress” in its nuclear armament program, it was not yet capable of outfitting its more advanced weapons with nuclear warheads as it claims, per USA Today.
The recent “Haeil” claim also demonstrates several flaws in logic, further casting doubt.
First, how has it been in development for over a decade, has already been tested over 50 times in the past two years, and yet was only mentioned now?
Second, given the country’s low stock of weapons-grade nuclear material, why put it on a drone that can be more easily intercepted than a ballistic missile?
“This un-crewed underwater vehicle will be vulnerable to anti-submarine warfare capabilities if it were to deploy beyond North Korea’s coastal waters. It will also be susceptible to preemptive strikes when in port,” said Ankit Panda, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, per USA Today.
“North Korea’s ICBM tests are thinly veiled threats that it could potentially destroy American cities,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, per CNN. “Its recent short-range missile firings [on March 19] attempt to increase the credibility, command, and control of its self-proclaimed tactical nuclear weapons units aimed at South Korea and Japan.”