Kim Jong-un rushes to build submarine 'that can fire nuclear missiles'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a factory in this undated

Diplomacy backed by military power is needed to deal with North Korea's missile and nuclear development, the head of the US military's Pacific Command said on Thursday. Images of the Sinpo South Shipyard taken on November 5 showed what appeared to be a submarine's pressure hull in the yard.

The regime already has one Sinpo-class submarine, which can make short journeys but is not yet able to launch ballistic missiles, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has said.

North Korea has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, sparking a major worldwide crisis in which U.S. President Donald Trump has said that all options are under consideration, including military ones.

"Commercial satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard from November 5 indicates that North Korea is on an aggressive schedule to build and deploy its first operational ballistic missile submarine", wrote 38 North.

A closer look at the two circular objects believed to be sections of the submarine's hull suggests that SINPO-C could have broader beam than the ROMEO-class attack submarine which was 21.9 feet.

The findings, which were posted on the website Thursday, also noted a probable launch canister at the missile test stand, suggesting ongoing ejection testing.

"Clearly, while diplomacy must be the main effort with North Korea, it has to be diplomacy backed by credible military power", Admiral Harry Harris said in Japan at the beginning of a meeting with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Reuters reported that Pyongyang is believed to also be working on a solid-fuel missile for submarine launches.

CNN quoted an unnamed USA defense official as saying there was evidence of an ejection test - which evaluates the "cold-launch system" that propels the missile from the launch canister before its engines ignite - in August.

USA and South Korean military officials have been on alert for signs that the communist state may conduct another missile test after a more than two-month lull in activity. US intelligence officials have declined to comment on this.

North Korea raised alarm over the summer when it test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles and sent two other projectiles soaring over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

North Korea has conducted dozens of missile tests this year and its largest and biggest nuclear test on September 3.

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