The English language version comes courtesy of Bill Gertz in Inside the Ring. It is worth reading in full, but this is how it begins.
U.S. intelligence agencies are working to track down an alarming report from inside North Korea revealing that the communist regime is secretly developing underwater nuclear torpedoes and mines.
According to a newsletter run by dissident North Koreans, the report states that North Korea’s government has a special group of researchers at the National Defense Technology Institute that is “developing underwater weapons using nuclear warheads.” The report was published Dec. 3 by the Korean-language newsletter NK Chisigan Yondae, or NK Intellectual Solidarity.
The U.S. Navy once had nuclear torpedoes and mines, as did the Soviet navy, and China’s military also has discussed the use of nuclear torpedoes in its military writings as recently as 2006.
The original report in Korean that is being discussed can be found here.
Keep in mind this is an unconfirmed report from a group of North Korean defectors. What seems to add some credibility to this new report is a “secret” Wikileaks cable dated September 26, 2008 when a Chinese diplomat told a US diplomat that North Korea failed to report “critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea’s coast.”
The idea of nuclear sea mines is not a new idea, there are several Chinese articles that have discussed the nuclear sea mine capability over the last decade. In China’s Underseas Sentries, a Winter 07 Underwater Magazine article by Andrew Erickson, Ph.D., Lyle Goldstein, Ph.D., & William Murray, the Chinese discussion is mentioned:
Submarines have attracted particular attention as a deployment platform for rising mines. An article by Dalian Naval Academy researchers suggests significant PLAN interest in SLMMs. A researcher at Institute 705 advocates acquisition of an encapsulated torpedo mine, similar to the Cold War-era U.S. Captor mine, which could be laid in very deep waters to attack passing submarines. Mine belts—external conformal containers designed to carry and release large numbers of mines—can be fitted to submarines in order to bolster their otherwise limited payloads. One article emphasizes that the Soviet navy developed a “mine laying module capable of carrying 50 sea mines on either side of the submarine” and states, “For the past few years related PLA experts have expressed pronounced interest in submarine mine belts…. The PLA very probably has already developed submarine mine belts.” Another source notes, however, that “submarines built after World War II rarely carry mines externally.”
Disturbingly, there is some discussion of a theoretical nature in Chinese naval analyses concerning arming sea mines with tactical nuclear weapons. One such analysis, in the context of discussing Russian MIW, notes that nuclear sea mines could sink adversary nuclear submarines from a range of 2000 meters…. A second article finds that a nuclear payload is one logical method to increase the destructive power of sea mines, while a third analysis argues that nuclear MIW is especially promising for future deep-water ASW operations. It concludes: “At this time, various countries are actively researching this extremely powerful nuclear-armed sea mine.”43 An article in the July 2006 issue of Modern Navy (Dangdai Haijun), published by the PLA Navy itself, in the context of discussing potential future PLA Navy use of sea mines, also notes the potential combat value of nuclear-armed sea mines. While there is no direct evidence of the existence of such naval tactical nuclear weapons programs in China, these articles do perhaps suggest the need to closely monitor any Chinese efforts in this direction.
The specific citations for the nuclear mine discussion are below:
焦方金 [Jiao Fangjin], “双头鹰的水中伏兵” [The Double-Headed Eagle’s Ambush at Sea], 国防科技 [Defense Science], July 2003, p. 91.
王 伟 [Wang Wei], “历久弥新话水雷” [Enduring and Yet Fully Relevant: A Discussion of Sea Mines], 国防 [National Defense], November 2002, p. 58.
陈冬元 [Chen Dongyuan], p. 45.
Is North Korea a signatory of the 1971 Seabed Treaty? I don’t think North Korea takes such things seriously, but use of a nuclear sea mine would be a clear violation.
In the focus of the Iranian nuclear program, I have discussed red lines that once crossed, means a military attack will likely come soon after. We have never really seen where a red line was crossed in regards to an Iranian nuclear program, but I am starting to wonder if someone in Seoul has decided North Korea has crossed that red line with the North Korean nuclear program. If so, it might help explain why the Obama administration seems to be committed to the new South Korean led strategy in dealing with North Korea, even if supporting that strategy takes the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.