North Korean state media on Monday showed leader Kim Jong-un visiting a navy submarine unit under the East Sea Fleet Command, as part of a new boastfulness about the formerly highly secretive weapons.
"Burn your heart only with the determination to fight, and accelerate your preparations for fighting," the Rodong Sinmun daily quoted Kim as saying. "Get all sailors firmly prepared as all-powerful warriors, so that they can mercilessly break asunder the enemy naval ships sneaking into our fatherland's seas."
Kim was accompanied by Hwang Pyong-so, the chief of the Army's politburo, and Pyon In-son, the first deputy chief of the Army General Staff.
A military spokesman here recalls that June 15 marked the 15th anniversary of the First Yeonpyeong Naval Battle in 1999, in which the South Korean Navy sank a North Korean torpedo boat and destroyed a North Korean patrol boat. "It seems likely that Kim staged the show to strengthen the unity of the North Korean military," he added.
"The North may have released the images with a view to showing off the North Korean submarine's firepower," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. "But their submarines are far inferior to ours in performance."
According to the North Korean reports, the submarine unit is headquartered in Rakwon, South Hamgyong Province. The daily carried eight pictures, including of Kim looking ahead on the conning tower of a green submarine and looking into a periscope.
Kim "went aboard Submarine No. 748 and guided some training himself," according to the daily.
The submarine is believed to be the North's largest 1,800-ton Romeo-class submarine, which it has operated since the 1960s. The regime has about 20 such submarines, most of which are seriously superannuated and noisy, making them practically unfit for actual operations.
The pictures released show the paint peeling and hull rusted in many parts.