For the first time in four decades, a United States nuclear-armed submarine (SSBN) made a port call in South Korea this week. According to recent news reports, this visit comes at a time of escalating tensions between the two Koreas, with North Korea increasing its military threats and pursuing weapons development, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Strengthening Defense Cooperation

To address the growing security concerns, the US and South Korea have strengthened their defense cooperation. Joint military exercises and the deployment of advanced stealth jets and strategic assets have been undertaken. The inaugural Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) meeting was held in Seoul, focusing on enhancing nuclear coordination and bolstering military readiness against North Korea.

The arrival of the American nuclear submarine in Busan—later confirmed and identified as the Ohio-class SSBN USS Kentucky—marks a significant development in the region. It demonstrates America’s commitment to its allies and sends a strong message of deterrence to North Korea. The last time a nuclear-armed submarine visited South Korea was in 1981, making this a noteworthy event.

During the NCG meeting, the US side emphasized its resolve to respond swiftly and decisively with overwhelming countermeasures should North Korea use nuclear weapons against South Korea. This firm stance aims to deter potential aggression and ensure the security and stability of the region.

North Korea’s Opposition

North Korea, as expected, voiced its opposition to the presence of US nuclear assets in the area, considering it a violation of its sovereignty. Moreover, Pyongyang condemned it and warned against further Allied plans to increase displays of military force, including the visit of a nuclear-armed submarine. Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, dismissed the possibility of talks with the United States and warned that such actions would push Pyongyang further away from diplomatic negotiations.