The United States will send nuclear-capable submarines to South Korea, authorities said on Tuesday. The deployment is presumably intended to dissuade North Korea from more missile testing, but it is also intended to reassure the South Korean population, who recently learnt that the US actively spied on their government.
The idea will be officially presented at the White House on Wednesday by US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, according to officials who spoke to numerous US media sites.
Both men are likely to sign the ‘Washington Declaration,’ which calls for more intelligence sharing and cooperative military exercises, as well as the rotation of nuclear-armed submarines and bombers from the United States to South Korea.
“We intend to take steps to make our deterrence more visible through regular deployment of strategic assets, including a visit by a US nuclear ballistic submarine to South Korea, which has not happened since the early 1980s,” one of the unidentified sources said. They likened the move to “what we did with European allies during the height of the Cold War in similar periods of potential external threat,” referring to the North Korean missile programme.
Pyongyang has tested over 100 missiles since the beginning of 2022, including its first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and a nuclear-capable underwater attack drone this month. Since last year, officials in Washington and Seoul have alleged that the North is preparing for its sixth underground nuclear test.
North Korea views US deployments near its borders as “provocations,” and typically reacts with verbal threats, drills of its own, or fresh nuclear tests.
Aside from deterring North Korea, the deployment of nuclear-armed submarines to the south is likely intended to mend relations between Washington and Seoul, which have been strained since recently leaked Pentagon documents revealed that the US spied on top South Korean officials to determine their stance on sending arms to Ukraine.
According to the official, “by implementing these new measures,” the US intends to “remind Seoul that America’s “commitment” to the country is “unquestionable.”