Updated Friday, January 19, 2024-08:20

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North Korea

reported this Friday that it has tested a

"submarine nuclear weapons system"

in response to joint naval exercises by Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, in which a US nuclear aircraft carrier participated.

The exercises "seriously threatened the security" of the North, so in response, Pyongyang "carried out a major test of its 'Haeil-5-23' submarine nuclear weapons system," according to a Defense Ministry statement. by the state news agency KCNA.

Last year, the isolated communist country reported several tests of a suspected nuclear attack underwater drone (a different version of the Haeil) that could trigger "a radioactive tsunami."

Analysts then questioned whether Pyongyang had this type of weapons.

This week, South Korea, the United States and Japan deployed naval exercises off the coast of Jeju Island that the allied countries said were in response to North Korea's launch of a hypersonic missile on Sunday.

The maneuvers mobilized nine ships from the three countries, including the American aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

A spokesperson for the North Korean Defense Ministry said on Friday that these exercises "constitute

a cause of further destabilization

of the regional situation and are an act that seriously threatened security," according to KCNA.

The spokesman has not revealed the exact date of the weapons test, but says he had guaranteed that its " nuclear-weapon-

based submarine counterattack posture

is being further refined."

"Its various maritime and submarine response actions will continue to deter hostile military maneuvers by the vessels of the United States and its allies," he added.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula has worsened in recent months, with both sides abandoning a key agreement to contain tensions, increasing their border security and conducting live-fire drills along the border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week declared the South his "main enemy" and dissolved government agencies dedicated to promoting cooperation and reunification of the peninsula.

He also threatened war if Seoul violated "even 0.001 millimeters" of its territory.

Drone deployment?

The new announcement of the

underwater test

"is a clear sign of the deployment of Haeil drones for use in its maritime fleet," said Hong Min, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

"The North's statement illustrates Pyongyang's position that it will respond in proportion to military exercises by the South, Japan and the United States," he added.

Still, the North appears to be trying not to "cross the line into armed conflict."

Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector turned analyst at the World Institute for North Korean Studies, told AFP it was "difficult to determine the exact capabilities" of Pyongyang's suspected undersea nuclear weapons system.

"Considering North Korea's defense scientific level and the fact that the weapon is still in the development phase, it is not yet at a stage that poses a significant threat," he said.

In his usual political meeting at the end of the year, Kim threatened a nuclear attack against the South and called for strengthening his country's military arsenal in the face of a war that could "break out at any moment."

On Sunday, North Korea fired a hypersonic solid-fuel missile and days before it deployed live-fire exercises near the tense maritime border with the South.

In response, Seoul

ordered its army maneuvers

and evacuated some islands near the border.

At the end of the previous year, Kim managed to launch the country's first spy satellite into orbit, for which, according to Seoul, he received help from Russia in exchange for the supply of weapons to Moscow for the war in Ukraine.