What Happened to North Korea’s Missing Sub? – And Why It Matters

Last week, the North Koreans lost a submarine. It wasn’t the first time and, with the rapidly approaching obsolescence of their underwater fleet, it probably won’t be the last; but, with the current state of affairs between the hermit kingdom of North Korea and most of its neighbors (and the United States), the loss of a submarine can have long-lasting repercussions.

What is known for sure is that the submarine was operating off of the coast of North Korea and it was being tracked by the U.S. military. Shortly after contact was lost, a search effort was begun by the North Korean navy. So far, that effort has not been successful.

“About week ago it went missing and the speculation is that it sank,” a U.S. official told USNI News. “The North Koreans have not made an attempt to indicate there is something wrong or that they require help or some type of assistance.” Information about what type of submarine or the likely cause of the loss is not being released. The North Korean’s have yet to make any announcement concerning the submarine.

NK SubIn most cases, submarine losses are kept quiet by the country suffering the loss. It is relatively rare that outside help could be assembled effectively in time to help the crew or boat if there has been a catastrophic event. The Kursk disaster in 2000 was downplayed in the media and foreign governments were misled for almost a week before the Russian government finally accepted assistance from Great Britain and Norway. At that point it was far too late for the crew.

The U.S. is also guilty of keeping problems and accidents with the submarine force secret. The Scorpion disaster is the most obvious example of it. Since 1966, the United States has been fortunate in not losing a submarine through accident or incident. Other countries have not been so fortunate. Russia and India have both lost submarines since the Kursk sank in 2000.

However, neither Russia nor India are belligerent little pseudo-kingdoms who glorify their military to keep their oppressed populations in line. North Korea is. A failure by the military, no matter if it was an accident or not, is still a failure. The concern here, is that Kim Jong-un will overreact to the situation.

Since the submarine loss, Jong-un has ordered more nuclear testing and continues his hostility toward South Korea and the United States. Although this is par for the course with Jong-un, it is politically troublesome. China, engaged in its own version of belligerence in the South China Sea, will either have to step in to settle down its client state or support Jong-un’s posturing.

Back to the original point. The newest of North Korea’s submarines is 40 years old. It was built by China, based on a successful Russian design. I am comfortable saying that the submarine, no matter how well maintained, suffered a cascading equipment failure and that it is currently resting on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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