Why is the US sending a nuclear submarine to South Korea?

Seoul, South Korea

When the presidents of the USA and South Korea this week introduced a landmark deal to discourage North Korean aggression, one component of the pact stood out.

Plans to deploy a US nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the primary time since 1981 had been the headline act within the unveiling of the “Washington Declaration,” a set of measures geared toward making Pyongyang suppose twice about launching a nuclear assault on its southern neighbor.

“Our mutual protection treaty is iron clad and that features our dedication to increase a deterrence – and that features the nuclear menace, the nuclear deterrent,” US President Joe Biden mentioned in a information convention on the White Home with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

However whereas the transfer has enormous symbolic worth, some consultants query whether or not it is smart as a navy transfer. Some level out the subs are fairly able to hitting North Korea from hundreds of miles away; others argue that sending the sub on a – very public – international port go to solely compromises the effectiveness of a weapon designed for stealth.

Right here’s what you could know concerning the submarine and why it’s heading to South Korea.

The US Navy has 14 Ohio-class, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), with eight primarily based in Washington state and 6 primarily based in Georgia.

The 560-foot submarines, generally known as “boomers,” have a displacement of greater than 18,000 tons when submerged and are every powered by a single nuclear reactor.

The Navy says an Ohio-class sub is designed to spend on common 77 days at sea, adopted by 35 days in port for upkeep. The subs have two crews every – dubbed the “blue” and “gold” crews – and these are rotated so the 155 submariners in every crew get correct relaxation and coaching between patrols.

Ripley USS Mississippi vpx

Go aboard a US nuclear-powered submarine looking out for threats from China

Every of the Ohio-class subs carry a most of 20 Trident II ballistic missiles.

These have a spread of 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers), which means they’re able to hitting a goal in North Korea from huge swathes of the Pacific, Indian or Arctic oceans.

“Militarily, (these submarines) don’t have to be wherever close to Korea with a purpose to attain potential targets there,” mentioned Blake Herzinger, a analysis fellow at the USA Research Centre.

Every Trident missile is able to carrying a number of warheads that will be directed towards separate targets.

The Nuclear Risk Initiative on the James Martin Middle for Nonproliferation Research estimates that every Trident missile can carry 4 nuclear warheads, which means every US ballistic missile submarine may very well be carrying about 80 nuclear warheads.

In different phrases, a single Trident-armed sub might destroy all of North Korea.

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile is test-launched from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska off the coast of California in 2018.

Analysts say the presence of a US Navy ballistic missile submarine in a South Korean port can be purely symbolic – and actually would scale back the navy worth of the sub.

“Tactically, (the US and South Korea) are diminishing the sub’s strongest asset; its stealthiness,” mentioned Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain and former director of operations on the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Middle in Hawaii.

One of many keys to nuclear deterrence is uncertainty.

“Nuclear deterrence requires that, although the adversary is aware of of the existence and scale of the nuclear state’s weapons, it can’t know the precise extent or location of capabilities or after they may be employed,” US Navy Cmdr. Daniel Put up wrote within the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings journal in January.

A US ballistic missile sub lurking tons of of toes beneath the ocean’s floor hundreds of miles from North Korea would nonetheless be inside placing vary of Pyongyang, however can be close to unattainable for North Korea to identify.

One arriving in South Korea on a port go to – which have to be organized 24 to 48 hours upfront – can be much more seen, giving North Korea a bonus, Schuster mentioned.

“If Kim Jong Un was seeking to do a shock strike, we’ve given him the submarine’s location and time it is going to be there,” Schuster mentioned.

The US needs to reassure one in every of its most necessary allies that it has their again, analysts say.

Kim Jong Un has been increase North Korea’s nuclear-capable missile forces, testing them at a report price in 2022. And in a New Yr’s Eve speech, the North Korean chief known as for an “exponential enhance” in his nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal in response to what he claims are threats from South Korea and the USA.

Kim’s threats have prompted some in South Korea to name for Seoul to turn out to be a nuclear-armed energy itself. The US doesn’t need to see nuclear proliferation on the peninsula, so it has been attempting to reassure its ally by making its forces extra seen within the space, together with flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers within the skies round South Korea.

Kim Jung-sup, senior analysis fellow on the Sejong Institute’s Middle for Protection Research in Seoul, mentioned the subs simply hammer that time house and add to US credibility.

“In fact, they’re several types of weapons, however I don’t suppose there may be a vital distinction in the truth that they’re strategic property that basically ship a message of nuclear retaliation on North Korea,” Kim mentioned.

As for making the US subs weak, some analysts say that such a situation would solely occur as a precursor to nuclear conflict – by which level the sub would have already failed in its key mission of deterrence.

“Their basic goal is to discourage and reassure,” mentioned Drew Thompson, a senior analysis fellow on the Lee Kuan Yew College of Public Coverage on the Nationwide College of Singapore.

“Strategic weapons like a ballistic missile submarine and its payload should not supposed for use.”

Posted by : www.cnn.com


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