Seoul doubts North Korea's underwater nuclear test

Pyongyang claimed it had conducted the test last week
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2024.01.21
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul  doubts North Korea's underwater nuclear test North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, Sept. 13, 2023.
Sputnik/Vladimir Smirnov/Pool via Reuters

North Korea has reiterated its dedication to enhancing its military prowess as South Korea has suggested that Pyongyang’s claim about testing underwater nuclear weapons might be “exaggerated” and “fabricated.”

“There is a widespread dominance of coercion and unilateral actions driven by the logic of power, which severely encroaches upon the sovereignty and survival rights of nations advocating for self-determination and independence,” said Kim Son Gyong, North Korea’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, as cited by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency on Monday.

Speaking at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Uganda last week, the deputy minister justified Pyongyang’s continued pursuit of military advancement, including its nuclear program.

“The situation where the sovereignty, autonomy, survival, and development rights of sovereign nations are under severe threat is particularly evident on the Korean Peninsula,” said Kim.

“As provocations from our adversaries increase, there is a continuous need to build an overwhelmingly strong military preparedness, capable of deterring any form of provocation or action, and being fully and thoroughly prepared.”

Such remarks came as North Korea said Friday it had carried out a test of an underwater nuclear weapons system, claiming it was facing severe security threats from the allies.

The North’s Underwater Weapon System Institute tested the “Haeil-5-23,” its underwater nuclear system involving drones, its Ministry of National Defence claimed. Submarine-launched weapons can be deployed covertly, often evading the allies’ detection systems, potentially offering Pyongyang a more elusive means of deploying its nuclear weapons.

South Korea on Sunday, however, raised the possibility that the claim might have been exaggerated and fabricated.

“There is a possibility that North Korea’s claims may have been exaggerated and fabricated, based on our comprehensive analysis up until today,” South Korea’s Presidential Office said in a statement.

“If indeed a test had taken place, it is presumed to have involved some form of torpedo, and the likelihood of it being a nuclear-powered system is highly improbable.

“There are no instances of developing a small nuclear reactor suitable for a torpedo with a diameter of less than 1 meter.”

Amid the tensions, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un pledged last week to amend the country’s constitution to declare Seoul as Pyongyang’s “primary and immutable enemy.” 

Edited by Taejun Kang and Elaine Chan.

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