Kim inspected warships being built at the Nampho Dockyard on the country’s west coast, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.
“The strengthening of the naval force presents itself as the most important issue in reliably defending the maritime sovereignty of the country,” it cited him as saying.
The North Korean leader has been trying to increase the ability of his navy to deliver nuclear strikes. To underscore the point, he was on hand to see the test late last month of a new cruise missile designed to be fired from a submarine and also inspected a nuclear-powered submarine his state is trying to build.
At the start of the year, Kim raised worries about ratcheting up provocation when he called for ending the concept of peaceful reunification with South Korea and his state fired munitions near Yeonpyeong Island. The seas near the South Korean island have been the cite of clashes between the two Koreas, including a 2010 incident in which South Korea said North Korea torpedoed one of its warships south of the line, killing 46 sailors.
Kim has shown no inclination he wants to return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks and has rolled out a series of new weapons designed to deliver nuclear strikes on the US and its allies in Asia.
This has led to some speculation that Kim has turned the corner on his bellicose outbursts and is readying for battle. US President Joe Biden has warned Kim that it would mean the end of his regime if he tried to launch a nuclear attack.
North Korea’s navy mostly consists of small warships and submarines for coastal defenses. Russia has been looking to train with Kim’s fleet as it steps up cooperation with its neighbor, South Korea’s spy agency warned in September, Yonhap News reported.
In testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Samuel Paparo said the relationship between Russia and North Korea is becoming symbiotic as Kim receives help from Moscow in exchange for sending munitions to President Vladimir Putin for his war on Ukraine.
“It closes gaps each for the other, providing conventional weapons to Russia from North Korean industry, providing sanctions-evading materials and high end — potentially high-end technology to North Korea,” Paparo said at the hearing for his reappointment as commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command.