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PoliticsSouth Korea

US nuclear sub to dock in South Korea

April 26, 2023

A US nuclear submarine is to visit South Korea, with leaders set to announce a reinforced nuclear shield for the Asian country, Biden officials say. The move comes amid aggressive nuclear posturing by the North.

 The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut
The US has several types of nuclear submarine, such as the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine seen hereImage: abaca/picture alliance

A US nuclear missile submarine will soon visit South Korea for the first time since the early 1980s, senior US officials said on Wednesday. 

The announcement comes as US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk Yeol are set to reveal details of enhanced military cooperation in response to North Korea's missile tests and growing nuclear arsenal.

What else are Biden and Yoon set to discuss?

An official said the measures to be announced at the White House were unprecedented in recent years and were being taken in response to the North Korean threat.

"The United States has not taken these steps, really, since the height of the Cold War with our very closest handful of allies in Europe. And we are seeking to ensure that by undertaking these new procedures, these new steps, that our commitment to extended deterrence is unquestionable," the senior official said.

Biden and Yoon are to present a document called the Washington Declaration that will outline details of the enhanced US military protection for South Korea.

Among other things, Washington also plans to increase information sharing with Seoul. 

However, officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that no US nuclear weapons were to be deployed to South Korea and that Seoul would reconfirm its commitment to not seek a nuclear arsenal itself.

During the Cold War, the US did station nuclear weapons in allied countries in Europe.

It also had hundreds of nuclear warheads in South Korea, but withdrew all of its nuclear weapons in 1991 as Cold War tensions eased.

In 1992, both Seoul and Pyongyang signed a joint declaration pledging that they would not "test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons."

North Korea has since regularly violated that commitment. 

tj/wd (AFP, AP)