A US nuclear-armed submarine has been docked in South Korean waters for the fourth time

The shutdown comes days after North Korea announced it had tested a solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile. Pyongyang recently warned that North Korea would shoot down US military spy planes engaged in “hostile espionage” operations near its border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong said on Monday that sending a US ballistic missile submarine to the peninsula would damage already fragile communications between the two sides.

A US Navy submarine is in South Korean waters as Kurt Campbell, the US National Security Council’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, attends the inaugural meeting of the Joint US-South Korea Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in Seoul.

“The reality facing the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is not a dialogue that has been repeatedly encouraged by the US”, and the NCG is “openly discussing the use of nuclear weapons against the DPRK and the entry of a US strategic nuclear submarine into the Korean Peninsula for the first time in 40 years,” said Kim Yoo. Zhang said.

At the same time, the Pyongyang leader’s sister said, “The United States should know that its integrated deterrence system and exaggerated military alliances, a threatening system, will push the DPRK away from the negotiating table.”

How many nuclear weapons can a submarine carry?

The Ohio-class submarines each carry a maximum of 20 Trident II ballistic missiles, and each such missile can carry four nuclear warheads, according to estimates by the James Martin Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation. Therefore, each US ballistic missile submarine carries approximately 80 nuclear warheads.

The Nuclear Advisory Council was established following a meeting in the United States in April between US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol. The two leaders later signed the “Washington Declaration,” which included measures designed to make North Korea think twice before attacking its southern neighbor.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the two allies said the NCG will enhance an “integrated deterrence and response posture”.

“This inaugural meeting of the NCG provided an opportunity for the United States to reaffirm and strengthen the United States’ commitment to provide Korea with an extended deterrence supported by the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear capabilities,” the statement said.

A US ballistic missile submarine could be hidden hundreds of meters in the ocean and thousands of kilometers from North Korea, but within range of Pyongyang, but would be nearly impossible to detect. But a port visit to South Korea would give North Korea an advantage, said Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.

“If Kim Jong Un wanted to launch a surprise strike, we gave him the location of the submarine and the time it would be there,” Shuster added.

Illustration: Profimedia

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