Kim Jong-un and his companions inspect a new submarine capable of firing nuclear missiles.

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North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has inspected a new submarine and raised fears that the secrecy state is about to expand its nuclear missile program.

Kim and his companions, including the head of an arms research unit, investigated the weapons systems of the ship, which was built under “his special attention” at a factory in North Korea, as the state media revealed last night.

Officials said the ship’s deployment in the Sea of Japan was “nearby” – suggesting Pyongyang had been working on the project during his tense negotiations with the United States.

Kim declared his “great satisfaction” with the military aircraft and vowed to strengthen North Korea’s defense, but few details about the submarine were provided.

It is unclear how the boat is powered or what its weapons are, but experts believe it is designed for multiple undersea ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that can be equipped with nuclear warheads.

It is well known that North Korea has developed and tested at least one nuclear SLBM – the Pukguksong-1 – and has carried out several test launches of its successor, the Pukguksong-2.

The Einsiedler Empire has a large submarine fleet, but only one known experimental submarine capable of carrying a ballistic missile.

Kim was accompanied during the visit by Kim Jong-sik, an official who played a leading role in the North Korean missile program, and Jang Chang-ha, the head of a national defense academy that the U.S. believes is responsible for the country’s weapons research.

We can clearly see that this is a massive submarine – much larger than the existing one known since 2014,” said Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists.

What I find significant about the political message here is that this is the first time since a military parade in February 2018 that he has inspected a military system clearly designed for the transport and delivery of nuclear weapons.

I see this as an ominous signal that we should be very serious about meeting Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline for implementing a change in US policy.

State-controlled North Korean media published the images when US security advisor John Bolton was in Seoul to meet with South Korean diplomats in an obvious attempt to create friction.

John Bolton has already described North Korea as a “defective human product” and made it clear that they believe he is trying to destroy the ongoing peace talks with South Korea.

US-based surveillance group 38 North said in June 2018 that North Korea appeared to continue building submarines at its Sinpo shipyard and may be building another Sinpo-class submarine for ballistic missiles.

This is, in my view, the submarine that the U.S. intelligence service called the Sinpo-C, a successor to North Korea’s only known ballistic missile submarine,” Panda said.

Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said Kim probably also wanted to convince North Koreans of his commitment to national defense at a time when he is more focused on the economy.

The announcement of his inspection of the new submarine also serves to build internal solidarity, eliminate people’s concerns about national security, calm and strengthen military morale,” he said.

A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry said they are following developments, but could not confirm whether the submarine is designed for the transport of missiles.

Efforts to develop submarine missile systems are a major concern for North Korea’s competitors and neighbors, as submarine missiles are harder to detect in advance.

Most of the North Korean fleet consists of small coastal submarines, but in recent years it has made rapid progress in its submarine missile programme.

In 2016, the country successfully launched a ballistic missile from a submarine and simultaneously implemented an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Programme (ICBM).

Kim has declared a pause in nuclear and missile testing while trying to make a deal with Washington.

These efforts were set back after the failure of the Kim summit with Donald Trump in February, followed by months of angry rhetoric between the two countries.

The hope of an agreement was revived when Trump and Kim shook hands in a spontaneous meeting in the border zone on 30 June.

At this meeting, Trump became the first acting US President to cross the border into North Korean territory.

But the situation worsened again last week when Pyongang warned that imminent military exercises in South Korea could derail the nuclear talks, pointing out that it could resume its own weapons testing.

There are nearly 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and their annual exercises with tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers have always made the North angry.

Kim’s regime fears that the exercises are samples for an invasion, although the exercises have been reduced to reduce tensions with the North.

Washington has insisted on a complete cave.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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