South Korea launched its first indigenous missile-capable attack submarine on Friday, despite a recent diplomatic thaw with the nuclear-armed North.
The $700 million, 3,000-tonne Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine is capable of firing both cruise and ballistic missiles and the first of three planned diesel-electric boats to go into service in the next five years.
It represented 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 said.
After trials, the submarine will be delivered to the Republic of Korea Navy in 2020.
Moon will head to Pyongyang next 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,” he added.
Also on Friday, the two Koreas opened a joint liaison office in the north ahead of Moon’s visit.
The two Koreas have sought to pursue joint projects in multiple fields since the April summit between Moon and Kim in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula.
The new submarine is fitted with six vertical launch tubes and features indigenous sonar and combat management systems.
Under the Jangbogo III program, a second submarine will be launched in 2022 and a third is planned for a future date.
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 ageing submarines and submersibles, and Yonhap news agency reported that it has also developed a new 2,500-tonne submarine fitted with a vertical launch system.
With reporting from AFP