The arrival of a large US nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea was a “dress rehearsal” for the docking of a nuclear-armed submarine, Nikkei Asia reported Monday.
The guided-missile submarine (SSGN) USS Michigan docked in Busan on Friday. The USS Michigan was initially commissioned in the 1980s as a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) that was armed with nuclear warheads but was converted into an SSGN in 2007 and is now armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The arrival of the USS Michigan in South Korea came a few months after President Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol announced that the US would deploy a nuclear-armed submarine to the Korean peninsula. A US Navy official told Nikkei that will still happen.
The official pointed to a joint declaration issued by Biden and Yoon when the South Korean leader visited Washington in April. “Going forward, the United States will further enhance the regular visibility of strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula, as evidenced by the upcoming visit of a US nuclear ballistic missile submarine to the [Republic of Korea],” the declaration reads.
“That reference is to an SSBN,” the US Navy official said. The deployment will mark the first time since 1981 that a nuclear-armed US submarine will visit the Korean Peninsula. The arrival of the USS Michigan on Friday was the first time a nuclear-powered US submarine docked in the country since 2017.
Because US nuclear-armed submarines can be patrolling waters anywhere in the world at any time and carry long-range missiles, from a strategic perspective, docking one in South Korea serves no purpose other than as a provocation toward North Korea. Tensions are currently soaring on the Korean Peninsula as the US and South Korea have been carrying out massive war games and Pyongyang has been launching missiles in response.