North Korea on Thursday issued a warning over the US deployment of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea, saying the provocation could potentially justify Pyongyang using its nuclear weapons.
The Ohio-Class USS Kentucky docked in the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday, marking the first time since 1981 that an American nuclear-armed submarine arrived in the country. It also marked the first time since the US withdrew its tactical nukes from South Korea in 1991 that US nuclear weapons were deployed to the Korean Peninsula.
The provocation coincided with the first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), which was established by the US and South Korea to increase cooperation related to US nuclear weapons.
North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam slammed the US and South Korean cooperation on nuclear weapons in a press statement released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency. Kang said US and South Korean officials held the NCG meeting “to discuss the plan for using nuclear weapons against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”
Discussing North Korea’s nuclear policy, Kang said, “I remind the US military of the fact that the ever-increasing visibility of the deployment of the strategic nuclear submarine and other strategic assets may fall under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the DPRK law on the nuclear force policy.”
He said that Pyongyang’s nuclear doctrine “allows the execution of necessary action procedures in case a nuclear attack is launched against it or it is judged that the use of nuclear weapons against it is imminent.”
After US officials held the NCG meeting, they released a statement that said any nuclear attack from the North will “will result in the end of that regime.” South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Wednesday boarded the nuclear-armed USS Kentucky and repeated the “end of the regime” threat.
The US nuclear deployment in South Korea provoked more North Korean missile tests as the two sides continue tit-for-tat escalations. The Biden administration has shown no interest in easing tensions and has vowed to continue deploying strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.