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North Korea claims to have tested nuclear-capable underwater attack drone

North Korea said on Friday it had used an underwater drone to practice launching a nuclear attack on an enemy seaport, saying threats from the United States and its allies compelled it to develop various means of carrying out nuclear strikes.

The drone was launched from the northern east coast on Tuesday, the Korean Central News Agency said. The report says he traveled underwater for more than 59 hours, hitting his target by Thursday afternoon, and his “test warhead” – not a real nuclear device – was detonated underwater. The target was not specified.

The drone, named Haeil, or tsunami, was designed to infiltrate enemy waters and “create a large-scale radioactive tsunami by underwater explosion” to destroy ships and ports, according to the report. State media released photos of Northern leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a torpedo-shaped vehicle in a warehouse and a similar vehicle traveling and exploding underwater.

There was no independent confirmation that the test had taken place. The South Korean military, which usually confirms North Korea’s ballistic missile tests soon after they take place, said it was trying to determine if the report was accurate, “keeping in mind ‘spirit various possibilities’.

Testing an underwater attack drone, let alone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, would be a first for the North.

North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in recent months, saying some of the missiles it has launched could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

On Friday, North Korea made such a statement about the strategic cruise missiles it launched off its east coast on Wednesday. Test warheads on the missiles exploded in the air to test their “nuclear explosion control devices and detonators”, state media said. Earlier in the week, state media said a ballistic missile test they conducted on Sunday also involved detonating a fake nuclear warhead.

Although North Korea has carried out six underground nuclear tests since 2016, it is unclear whether it has developed the kind of nuclear attack capabilities that its state media often say it has. The North claims to have nuclear warheads small and light enough to mount on drones, as well as cruise and short-range missiles.

South Korea has said it carefully assesses the North’s evolving capabilities, something it says Mr Kim’s government has often exaggerated.

“It’s hard to determine how much we can trust the North Korean claim,” Kim Dong-yub, a North Korean weapons expert at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said of the incident. drone test reported. But it would be wise not to underestimate the North, he said, noting that other nations had developed various unmanned underwater weapon systems.

The North’s report says the drone could be towed by a ship and launched at sea, which, if the drone was nuclear-capable, would extend the reach of its nuclear arsenal. North Korea has been trying for years to build a submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles away from its shores, but it has yet to deploy one.

Kim Jong-un, while observing weapons tests this week, called them evidence that the North’s “unlimited” nuclear deterrence was being “built at greater speed”, state media said. He also said the United States and South Korea must end their “reckless” joint military exercises, which the North calls rehearsals for an invasion.

The two allies ended an 11-day joint exercise on Thursday, the largest in years in terms of the number of soldiers involved. They are also in the midst of a separate exercise, involving a mock amphibious landing, which will continue until early April.

The North’s underwater drone test, if it took place, took place as a fleet of South Korean and American ships joined the amphibious landing exercise, sailing to Pohang, a port city on the coast east of South Korea. Next week, the US aircraft carrier Nimitz is due to visit the biggest port city of Busan.

nytimes Gt

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