SEOUL, South Korea, (AP) - North Korea claimed on Saturday that it had tested this week a nuclear-capable underwater assault drone designed to destroy ports and naval vessels. This is the latest in a series of weapon demonstrations by North Korea this year, which have heightened rivalry.
The report on the four-day tests came one day after the nuclear ambassadors of Japan, South Korea and the United States met in Seoul. They discussed the increasing nuclear threat from North Korea and called for greater international efforts to crackdown on North Korean illicit activities that fund its weapons program.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency, the drone named "Haeil-2", after a Korean term meaning tsunamis or tide waves, traveled under water for over 71 hours, before detonating the mock warhead successfully in waters near Tanchon, a port city located on the east coast. KCNA stated that the test showed the weapon's ability to strike targets up to 1,000 kilometers away (621 miles).
North Korean state media reported last month that two drones, named "Haeil-1," were tested. The weapon was described as being capable of causing a "radioactive tsunami" to destroy enemy ships and ports.
Analysts are skeptical, however, about whether such a device could add a significant new threat to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which is built around missiles. They also question whether the North should pursue such capabilities, given its limited supply of nuclear bomb fuel. South Korea's Military has stated that it believes North Korean claims regarding Haeil-1 are likely to be 'exaggerated' or fabricated.
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Sung Kim, the special representative of U.S. president Joe Biden for North Korea, met in Seoul with his South Korean, Japanese and Chinese counterparts. They issued a statement together calling for greater international support against North Korea's efforts to evade U.N. Security Council sanction imposed due to its nuclear weapons ambitions.
The envoys were particularly concerned about North Korea's cybercrimes, and the illegal labor exports. Seoul believes that these could expand as Seoul reopens more of its borders in response to COVID-19 fears easing.
North Korea alone launched around 30 missiles at 11 different launch events in 2023, including an intercontinental missile with a range that could reach the U.S. continental mainland as well as several shorter-range weapons to deliver nuclear attacks on South Korean targets.