On January 28th, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a nuclear-powered submarine and watched a strategic cruise missile test. The Secretaries of the Korean Worker’s Party Central Committee, the Korean People’s Navy commander, and other senior officials also watched the missile test alongside Kim.
The test involved launching two Pulhwasal-3-31 strategic Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM) from an underwater platform or submarine. The missiles reportedly flew for approximately 123 and 124 minutes each (7,421 and 7,445 seconds) before striking a target on an unnamed island.
The Korean Central News Agency said the test did not impact surrounding countries’ safety and was not related to the situation in the region.
The launch tests of the two missiles are the second time North Korea conducted a test of the Pulhwasal-3-31, the first test occurred on January 25th.
The successful Pulhwasal-3-31 missile test comes as North Korea ramps up development of its various missile and other strategic weapon programs such as the Haeil unmanned underwater vehicle. One of the most interesting notes about the Pulhwasal-3-31 SLCM is the use of a secondary number, which indicates that North Korea is developing or wants to appear to be developing multiple variants. Another interesting aspect of Kim’s visit is the lack of any photographs of Kim observing and interacting with individuals during his inspection of the nuclear submarine project.
The Rodong Sinmun and KNCA mentioned that Kim inspected the project but did not publish any photos of that part of the visit. The lack of any photographs is unusual since the visit would be significant enough to write and produce photos of Kim ‘advising’ and ‘guiding’ the officials and workers for propaganda purposes. The lack of photos may indicate that the visit did not occur or that they believed that the photos would provide foreign analysts with ‘sensitive information’ about the project. Another possibility is that Kim did not visit the submarine project because it is not at the stage where it could be used for propaganda purposes.