Over the last three years North Korea has significantly stepped up its production of submersible vessels such as midget submarines, according to an inside source. The sinking of the South Korean corvette ‘Cheonan’ in March 2010 by just such a North Korean midget submarine is said to have caused the authorities to appreciate the potential importance of such vessels to their asymmetrical warfare capabilities.
As such, there are suspicions that the recent North Korean decision to import more than 600kg of silver through China was done to facilitate the production of batteries for submersible production.
A North Korean military source told Daily NK on the 4th, “The [North Korean] Navy has been producing submersibles at every shipyard on their east and west coasts ever since the attack on the Cheonan in 2010.”
According to the inside source, prior to the Cheonan sinking such vessels were produced at one shipyard, the disguised ‘Bongdae Boiler Factory’ in Sinpo, South Hamkyung Province, at a rate of five per year. However, following the sinking of the Cheonan that rate went up four times to 16 per year, as the vessels started being produced across multiple shipyards including Yongampo, Chongjin and Rajin.
The source explained, “The reason why the North Korean authorities are increasing production of this kind of submersible that can fire torpedoes is to maximize their underwater attack capacity. The subs can take 12 to 15 soldiers yet still sink destroyers weighing thousands of tons with their twin torpedoes.”
“The engines noise on the submersibles is very quiet, making them able to approach their targets underwater in secret, while it is impossible to trace crimes such as the Cheonan incident,” the source went on, adding that during North Korean military training exercises they also emphasize the essential nature of the subs.
The rising production is pushing up demand for batteries, the source then went on to add, saying that this required the bulk production of both silver and zinc. “All the silver produced in North Korea is supplied to the shipyards,” he claimed.
The source admitted to being confused, therefore, at North Korea’s recent decision to import 660kg of silver from China, declaring, “There is lots of silver being produced in North Korea, so it’s hard to say why they are importing it from China…I suppose it may have been just that more batteries were being produced so they needed more silver.”