North Korea’s new midget submarines feature torpedo launch tubes, according to South Korean intelligence sources, suggesting that the North is planning more torpedo strikes.
According to sources, satellite imagery examined by South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials have shown 4-meter-long (13.1 feet) torpedo launch tubes attached to North Korea’s new line of “Daedong-B” mini-submarines. Intelligence authorities from both countries had suspected that satellite images showed launch tubes attached to the submersibles. An intelligence tip later confirmed that they were for lightweight torpedoes.
The Daedong-B model is said to be 17 meters long, 4 meters wide and 2.2 meters high. One special characteristic of the midget submarine, intelligence sources said, is the rear of the vessel, which is shaped like a ramp to easily enable agents to get on and off.
North Korea has also been holding exercises with the new submarines.
“Intense military exercises with the midget submarines were conducted by North Korea in July and recently while South Korean and U.S. troops were holding joint exercises,” a South Korean intelligence official said, adding that the drills were aimed against South Korean vessels.
Based on the evidence, intelligence authorities believe North Korea is now capable of carrying out attacks with its mini-submarines, along with its Yono class submersibles, which the South Korean government believes the North used to sink the Cheonan in March.
North Korea has not made any direct threats to attack the South with its torpedoes since March, which it did on a regular basis before the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.
However, North Korea’s preference for torpedoes is well-known, and they have been the weapons of choice for Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il.
In April 2007, North Korea’s state broadcaster Korean Central Television (KCTV) showed Kim Jong-il instructing marines in a military drill involving torpedoes. The “Dear Leader” was reported to have “laughed with vigor” and immensely approved the torpedo training. Kim was said to have mounted a torpedo-equipped submarine himself and “went out to the wild seas” with the seamen.
North Korean propaganda claims that its torpedo boats sunk the U.S.S. Baltimore in 1950, although the U.S. battleship was never deployed in the Korean War. On the day cited by North Korea for the attack, the U.S.S. Juneau and two British warships destroyed several North Korean torpedo boats escorting supply vessels without any significant return fire from the North Koreans.