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North Korea 'Whale'-class submarine detected, Seoul says

A North Korean submarine used to launch ballistic missiles could be in deployment, according Seoul's spy agency on Thursday. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA
A North Korean submarine used to launch ballistic missiles could be in deployment, according Seoul's spy agency on Thursday. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- North Korean submarines used to launch ballistic missiles continue to be detected at Sinpo Shipyard, Seoul's spy agency says.

Kim Jong Un could also be delegating more of his responsibilities to subordinates due to "stress," according to South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-kyung.

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South Korea's national intelligence service said during a briefing at Seoul's parliamentary committee on intelligence a North Korean Sinpo-class submarine, also known as the Gorae or "Whale" class, and equipment for underwater launches, continue to be identified by U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities, Newsis reported Thursday.

North Korea first disclosed information about the Sinpo-class submarine in 2014.

Seoul said it has also confirmed that a new submarine North Korea unveiled in July 2019 is a modified Romeo-class diesel-electric submarine . It is unclear when Pyongyang began to deploy the modified submarine, the spy agency said.

North Korea's plutonium-producing reactor in Yongbyon has shut down and has not returned since 2018. There are no signs of nuclear reprocessing activity, according to the NIS.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced North Korea to significantly scale back military exercises. According to NIS estimates, Pyongyang may have decreased the number of troops in training by as much as 65%.

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Kim has been increasing the number of public activities after July, however.

Seoul said Kim could be seeking to achieve "tangible results" ahead of Korean Workers' Party foundation day on Oct. 10, Yonhap reported Thursday.

Kim has appeared in public 33 times this year. He could be delegating his responsibilities to subordinates.

The NIS said the North Korean leader may have transferred some of his powers to officials like sister Kim Yo Jong, due to "stress from governing," News 1 reported.

Ha disclosed the information following the intelligence briefing, according to the report.

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