North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered officials to beef up the regime’s military capabilities and was photographed inspecting a newly built submarine despite the potential revival of nuclear diplomacy with the U.S.
Last week, the regime said it may lift its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests in protest of expected military drills between the U.S. and South Korea that Pyongyang claims are a rehearsal for the invasion.
Both Kim and President Trump are working to resume talks as agreed to after a meeting late last month on the Korean border. The dialogue has stalled since the second Kim-Trump summit in Vietnam in February fell apart due to differences over U.S.-led sanctions on the regime.
Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the new submarine that will be soon deployed and “stressed the need to steadily and reliably increase the national defense capability by directing big efforts to the development of the naval weapons and equipment such as submarine,” according to state media.
The new submarine signals that North Korea has continued to increase its military capabilities even as the U.S. tries to defuse the tensions in the Korean Peninsula by offering the regime economic benefits.
It remains unclear what kind of a submarine North Korea has built, but it will likely raise fears in the region. North Korea previously said that it managed to successfully test-fire ballistic missiles from submarines.
According to a South Korean defense report in 2018, North Korea has 70 submarines and submersibles.
The Tuesday report could also part of the regime’s effort to increase pressure on the U.S. ahead of the new talks and get concessions.
Pyongyang is seeking relief from punitive U.S.-led sanctions in return for promising to give up parts of its weapons program. The U.S. so far refused to give in to such proposals and instead demanded greater steps toward disarmament before it can agree to lift parts of sanctions.