[Strategic Intel] North Korea’s nuclear sub development signals rush for full deterrence

Recently detected activity at North Korea’s most significant submarine shipyard indicates that Pyongyang is moving full steam ahead with the development of a nuclear missile-carrying sub.

While the existence of one nuclear-carrying sub in North Korea’s navy that will probably be easily detectable once it leaves port may not yet be worrisome to U.S. military planners, building such a vessel signals that the regime in Pyongyang is moving towards a full nuclear deterrence, to ensure its survival.

The assessment, according to 38 North, an analysis site run by the US-Korea Institute of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is based upon movement of parts and equipment at a key North Korean shipyard indicate workers are assembling a new missile sub on an “accelerated schedule.”

It isn’t so much the sub’s potential that is concerning at this point, but rather the direction Pyongyang is moving with its nuclear program and the haste with which it has made progress in the past year, especially.

The doctrine is called “asymmetric escalation,” and some experts believe North Korea has already constructed a strategic force capable of plausibly carrying it out.

“I think we have to assume from a policy perspective that they plausibly do – certainly enough that I wouldn’t risk New York or DC to find out,” says Vipin Narang, a proliferation expert and associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [source]

(Analyst comment: It’s easy to say that North Korea doesn’t have the technology to build quieter submarines. But the again, experts have said for years that Pyongyang lacks the technical ability to build sophisticated long-range ICBMs, until it fired one off earlier this fall. The point is, it’s never been wise to write off anything having to do with North Korea’s military capability because frankly, I don’t think anyone really knows what it is for certain.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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