Asia Pacific

South Korea launches its first missile-capable submarine amid detente with North

AFP-JIJI

South Korea launched its first missile-capable attack submarine on Friday, despite a recent diplomatic thaw with the nuclear-armed North.

The $700 million, 3,000-ton Dosan Ahn Chang-ho is capable of firing both cruise and ballistic missiles. It is the first of three diesel-electric boats planned to go into service in the next five years.

It represents a “leap forward” in the country’s defense industry, President Moon Jae-in told a launch ceremony at the Daewoo shipyard where it was designed and built. “Peace through power is the unwavering security strategy of this government.”

Moon will head to Pyongyang in the coming week for a third summit with the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as U.S.-led efforts to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons have stalled.

“We have set off on a grand journey toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. “But peace is not given gratuitously.”

The submarine is fitted with six vertical launch tubes and features indigenous sonar and combat management systems.

Aside from the new vessels, South Korea has an existing fleet of 18 smaller submarines, all built in co-operation with Germany.

According to the defense ministry, the North has 70 aging submarines and submersibles. Yonhap news agency reported that it has also developed a new 2,500-ton submarine fitted with a vertical launch system.