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Saturday, 8 April 2023

North Korea tests another underwater nuclear attack ‘drone’

North Korea has conducted another test of a nuclear-capable underwater attack drone, according to state media.

The country tested the so-called Haeil-2 more than a week after it disclosed a new underwater drone system dubbed Haeil-1, which translates to “tsunami” in Korean, and is designed to undertake sneak attacks in enemy waters.

Analysts are sceptical about whether the underwater vehicle is ready for deployment but say North Korea is eager to display its diverse weaponry against the United States and South Korea, which have been conducting large-scale military exercises in recent weeks.

The latest test took place from April 4 to April 7, state media KCNA reported on Saturday.

“The underwater nuclear attack drone Haeil-2 … cruised 1,000km [621 miles] of simulated underwater distance,” the agency said, adding that the test warhead was also detonated.

“The test perfectly proved the reliability of the underwater strategic weapon system and its fatal attack ability,” the report said.

North Korea carried out a record number of weapons tests in 2022 and has maintained its military momentum this year, claiming it needs to bolster its defences because the US-South Korean drills, which this week included at least one US nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bomber, are rehearsals for invasion.

On March 23, North Korea claimed it tested an underwater nuclear attack drone able to unleash a “radioactive tsunami“. On that occasion, state media said the drone cruised underwater for 59 hours and 12 minutes before detonation.

Satellite imagery has also indicated a high level of activity at North Korea’s main nuclear complex after leader Kim Jong Un ordered the production of weapons-grade nuclear material be ramped up.

Last year, North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power, while Kim has told the North Korean military to intensify drills in preparation for a “real war“.

Denuclearisation talks have been stalled since the second high-profile summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed in 2019.

Pyongyang is banned from testing ballistic missiles under United Nations resolutions and is also subject to international sanctions over its weapons programmes.

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