SEOUL (AFP) – Nuclear-armed North Korea unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at a military parade in Pyongyang, state media reported yesterday, in a show of strength days before Joe Biden’s inauguration as United States (US) president.
The display came after the five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party, where leader Kim Jong Un decried the US as his country’s “foremost principal enemy”.
A grinning Kim oversaw the parade on Thursday evening, wearing a black leather coat and fur hat as he watched infantry troops, artillery, tanks, and a flypast with aircraft forming the number ‘8’ to commemorate the party meeting.
“The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces,” the official KCNA news agency said.
Pictures showed at least four of the SLBMs with black-and-white cones being driven past flag-waving crowds in Kim Il Sung Square, and Park Won-gon of Handong Global University in the South described them as “the North’s ultimate nuclear weapon”.
The North has shown off earlier, smaller SLBMs before, and broadcast footage of a test launch, but it was not clear whether that missile was fired from a submarine or an underwater platform.
A working SLBM on a nuclear-powered submarine would be a strategic game-changer, enabling Pyongyang to launch a surprise attack from close to the US or carry out a strike even if its land-based forces had been destroyed.
At the congress, Kim said the North had completed plans for a nuclear submarine, but any such vessel is likely to be years away from going into service.
Analysts said the North is using the party meeting and military display to send the incoming administration in Washington a carefully calibrated message of strength in an attempt to extract concessions.
KCNA said the parade included rockets with a “powerful striking capability for thoroughly annihilating enemies in a preemptive way outside the territory”.