November 07, 2007 10:08
Google Earth is making waves with an image of a warship anchoring, its weapons removed, in Nampo port near the Taedong River in North Korea. The 3,000-ton Krivak-class frigate was manufactured in Russia.
The picture of the 3,000-ton destroyer has set tongues wagging because the North was only known to have three warships with a displacement of more than 1,000 tons -- two 1,500-ton Rajin-class frigates manufactured in the 1970s and one 1,600-ton Soho-class frigate in the 1980s.
South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities assume that the warship was imported as scrap metal given that it has no guns and radar. But it is possible that the North will install weapons in the vessel to use it as a warship, since Pyongyang has long tried to import large warships from China and Russia in response to South Korea's construction of warships with a displacement of more than 3,000 tons including a 7,000-ton Aegis vessel.
A military source on Tuesday said the South Korean military is "keeping an eye" on the Russian-made warship, since there is intelligence that North Korea will equip the vessel with helicopters to use it as a flagship. The existence of a warship-building yard near Nampo port backs that intelligence. But another source said the North imported the warship "for display."
Experts say that the warship is likely to be the latest Krivak III model. A fully functional Krivak III is 123.5 m long and 14.2 m wide and equipped with SA-N-4 ship-to-air missiles and KA-27 helicopters. Built in the mid 1980s, it is still used by the Russian Navy.
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