August 26, 2016 09:47
U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines have been clandestinely tracking North Korean U-boats since the North began to show progress in developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles last year.
The U.S. has apparently been keeping the information from South Korea.
SLBM attacks would be difficult to detect unless a country's own submarines lie in wait in front of an enemy's submarine bases and ambush them in a crisis.
The U.S. has been spying on North Korean submarine bases in Hamnam and Sinpo, according to a source, and will probably step up surveillance after North Korea succeeded in test-firing an SLBM on Wednesday.
Conventional submarines powered by diesel engines cannot conduct missions underwater for more than three to four weeks, but nuclear-powered ones can operate underwater for up to three months at a time.
The U.S. subs are gathering crucial sonar signatures that will help them identify the 2,000-ton submarines that carry SLBMs.
But the U.S. subs are operating on the high seas away from the North's territorial waters to avoid provoking clashes, and North Korea's anti-submarine equipment is too outdated to detect them.
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the SLBM launch site on Wednesday and called the launch "the greatest success," according to North Korean state media.
Kim claimed that the North has "joined the front rank of military powers fully equipped with nuclear attack capability" and crowed that the U.S. mainland and operating theaters in the Pacific are under the North's control.
The Rodong Sinmun daily carried dozens of front-page photos of the SLBM launch, while state TV broadcast footage of the test.
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