North pillories nuclear sub idea for South
One of North Korea’s propaganda outlets criticized South Korea for reports that it wants to acquire nuclear fuel from the United States for a nuclear-powered submarine.
Meari, a North Korean website primarily dealing with propaganda regarding the South, called South Korean Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Hyun-chong’s trip to the United States last month a “highly dangerous act that destroys peace on the Korean Peninsula” that heightens tensions and provokes an arms race.
The piece from Meari referred to South Korean domestic news reports that alleged that Kim, in a visit to Washington on Sept. 16 to 20, asked the United States to sell enriched nuclear fuel.
Though the Blue House declined to confirm the reports, several local media outlets in Seoul linked the reported request to the administration’s plan to build a nuclear submarine, something South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged during his run for the office in 2017.
U.S. officials declined Kim’s request, according to the Dong-A Ilbo, citing Washington’s nonproliferation principle that applies to allies as well.
While it has long been cited as one of Seoul’s top military ambitions, the plan to build a nuclear submarine was effectively formalized in a Ministry of National Defense five-year military plan unveiled in August, which noted the possibility of using engines with nuclear reactors to power its future 3,600- to 4,000-ton submarines.
The impediment to such a blueprint, however, is a limit set by the United States on South Korea’s domestic uranium enrichment capacity, which bars Seoul from producing enough enriched uranium for military purposes.
The Blue House may have sought the acquisition of American enriched uranium as a means to bypass the restriction, buoyed by its successful negotiations on the lifting of all U.S. restrictions on Seoul’s use of solid-fuel rockets in July.
Unlike the diesel-electric-powered submarines that South Korea currently possesses, a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor would remove the need for surfacing and allow the vessel to carry out long-term operations underwater. Such subs typically do not need refueling for over two decades.
In its report on Sunday, Meari likened Moon’s nuclear submarine plan to “jumping atop a blade,” calling the idea far too ambitious to suit a county of “scarecrows that delegates even the most basic of its national defense powers to the United States.”
While reserving such visceral responses for South Korea’s plans, the regime argues its own nuclear ambitions are solely devoted to the goal of self-defense.
In an address ahead of a military parade last week, during which the regime unveiled an immense intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country would only use its arsenal to safeguard its existence, making no reference to his past pledge to abandon his nuclear weapons in exchange for peace with the United States.
Kim in that same speech extended an apparent olive branch to Seoul, saying he hoped the day would come when people of the two countries would meet again, but little of that message’s tone was apparent in the regime’s latest propaganda leveled at South Korea.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]