Photos Show Kim Jong Un Inspecting New Submarine, Deployment Is 'Near at Hand' to Implement 'Military Strategic Intention'

North Korean state media was abuzz Tuesday with news that leader Kim Jong Un had undertaken a trip to inspect a new submarine, which Pyongyang says will buoy the nation's military prowess and contribute to a new "military strategic intention."

During his undated visit to the undisclosed military location, Kim called for more naval development to strengthen the country's military options, according to Reuters.

The capabilities of the new submarine were not revealed by state media reports, though some reports have suggested it may have been designed to be able to launch ballistic missiles while at sea.

North Korea maintains one of the largest submarine fleets in the world, but the majority of its vessels are outdated and few are believed to be seaworthy. Those that are can only safely operate close to the country's coastline and cannot venture into deeper waters. North Korea currently has only one known experimental vessel capable of carrying a ballistic missile, Reuters noted.

The development of a North Korean ballistic missile-armed submarine fleet would be of significant concern to the U.S. and South Korea. Such vessels are vital elements in deterrence policies of nuclear powers.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a new submarine aimed at implementing North Korea's "military strategic intention". There's no word on the date of the inspection, but state media say its deployment in the East Sea - also called the Sea of Japan - is "near at hand".

— Shreyas Reddy (@shreyas_k_reddy) July 23, 2019

Hard to detect and sink, such submarines can remain at sea armed and poised to strike for months while a war rages on land and in the air. Though North Korea has not yet proved it can fit its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, it is only a matter of time before this is achieved.

A deployment date for the new submarine was also not set. However, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the vessel's deployment "is near at hand" and that it will "perform its duty in the operational waters of the East Sea of Korea"—internationally known as the Sea of Japan.

KCNA said the submarine was built under Kim's "special attention," and the young dictator reportedly expressed "great satisfaction" with the finished product.

The agency reported that Kim touted the submarine as "an important component in national defense of our country" and "stressed the need to steadily and reliably increase the national defense capability by directing big efforts to the development of the naval weapons."

Kim also reportedly expressed his "pride" over the "powerful submarine," which KCNA said he described as "the fruition of the noble patriotism and loyalty of officials, scientists, technicians and workers in the field of national defense science and munitions factories."

The submarine visit is Kim's first military appearance since he met with President Donald Trump at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom last month to agree to resume denuclearization talks between the two nations.

But the working-level talks are already under threat again. The North has warned it may withdraw from discussions over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills planned for next month. Kim's submarine visit may represent another way for Pyongyang to exert pressure on Washington.

North Korea, submarine, Kim Jong Un, ICBM
This file photo released on August 25, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a test-fire of a submarine-launched ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. KNS/AFP/Getty