US Nuclear-Armed Submarine Docks in South Korea for First Time Since 1981

The major provocation comes amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula

A US nuclear-armed submarine docked in South Korea on Tuesday in a major provocation aimed at North Korea as tensions on the Korean Peninsula continue to rise.

The docking of the USS Kentucky, an Ohio-Class submarine, in the South Korean port of Busan marks the first time since 1981 that a US nuclear-armed submarine arrived in the country. It also marks the first time US nuclear weapons have been deployed to the Korean Peninsula since 1991, the year the US withdrew all of the tactical nukes it had stationed in South Korea.

Because US nuclear-armed submarines can covertly patrol waters anywhere in the world and have long-range missiles, docking one in South Korea has no strategic value, demonstrating the move is nothing more than a blatant provocation by the Biden administration. The provocation is also likely meant to send a message to China.

President Biden agreed to deploy a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea in April when South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visited Washington. The two leaders also agreed to increase cooperation on “nuclear deterrence” and established a Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), which held its first meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on Tuesday.

Protesters staged a rally against the NCG meeting in front of the presidential office. Demonstrators carried signs that read “Dismantle NCG!” and “Opposition to the deployment of nuclear submarines.”

The NCG meeting was led by South Korean Deputy National Security Director Kim Tae-hyo and Kurt Campbell, President Biden’s top Asia official on the National Security Council. “Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime,” the group said in a statement after the meeting.

The submarine deployment and NCG meeting came a few days after North Korea launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile. Since early 2022, North Korea has conducted over 100 missile tests, and the US and South Korea resumed massive war games and live-fire drills, pitting both sides in a series of tit-for-tat escalations.

The Biden administration has made no efforts to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula or to pursue talks with Pyongyang. Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, said Monday the US deployment of a nuclear-armed submarine would make diplomacy even less likely and warned the North was “ready for resolutely countering any acts of violating its sovereignty.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.