the bongino report

US nuclear sub seen in Guam en route to South Korea.

U.S. Navy Submarine Arrives in Guam, Could Be First to Sail to South Korea Since 1980s

The USS Maine, a U.S. Navy Ohio-class nuclear submarine, recently made a “pit stop” in Guam and could be the first such submarine to sail to South Korea since the 1980s, under a new agreement announced by Seoul and Washington on Wednesday.

New Agreement Gives Seoul Greater Role in Nuclear Deterrence Planning Against North Korea

The “Washington Declaration” seeks to strengthen the traditional U.S. policy of “extended deterrence” and discuss planning with South Korea, which has declined to pursue its own nuclear weapons program even as it faces a hostile, nuclear-armed North Korea. The agreement also calls for greater visibility of U.S. nuclear forces in the Korean Peninsula “as evidenced by the upcoming visit of a U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine” to South Korea.

Ohio-Class Submarine to Visit South Korea

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder declined to specify when the first nuclear-armed missile submarine would visit South Korea, but said the upcoming visit will be carried out by an Ohio-class submarine. The Maine was commissioned in 1995 and is currently based at Naval Submarine Base Bangor in Washington state. It carries more than 20 Trident II D-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with multiple warheads.

History of U.S. Nuclear Presence in South Korea

The United States at one time deployed several hundred tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea to deter a North Korean invasion. U.S. nuclear missile submarines also made frequent stops in South Korea during the late 1970s as part of what the Pentagon called its “nuclear umbrella” strategy, making as many as two or three port calls a month.

  • The USS Maine made a “pit stop” in Guam on April 18
  • The new agreement gives Seoul a greater role in nuclear deterrence planning against North Korea
  • The agreement calls for greater visibility of U.S. nuclear forces in the Korean Peninsula
  • The upcoming visit to South Korea will be carried out by an Ohio-class submarine
  • The United States at one time deployed several hundred tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea

With tensions high on the Korean Peninsula, the arrival of a U.S. nuclear submarine in South Korea would be a significant show of force and a clear message to North Korea. It remains to be seen when the Ohio-class submarine will make its visit, but it is sure to be closely watched by all parties involved.

The Unilateral Withdrawal of Nuclear Weapons from South Korea

A Brief History

In 1992, the George H.W. Bush administration made the decision to unilaterally withdraw all nuclear weapons from South Korea. This was due to the agreement signed by both North and South Korea, which stated that they would not produce, test, receive, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.

However, North Korea violated this joint declaration and a subsequent 1994 “Agreed Framework” under President Clinton, which called on Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear programs. Instead, North Korea covertly built several hundred nuclear warheads and a variety of medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles.

The Biden Administration’s Policy

Despite this, a Biden administration official has stated that there are no plans to re-deploy U.S. nuclear weapons, tactical or strategic, in South Korea. Instead, the new policy unveiled this week will include ballistic missile submarine visits as well as temporary deployments of bombers or aircraft carriers.

U.S. forces in South Korea are also expected to conduct exercises with nuclear-capable jets, such as the new F-35 that will be able to carry nuclear bombs by 2024.

The Nuclear Declaration

The nuclear declaration is part of an effort by the Biden administration to persuade South Korea not to develop its own nuclear weapons capability in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea. Opinion polls say a clear majority of South Koreans favor a domestic nuclear arms capability, reflecting doubts the U.S. would risk a nuclear attack from Pyongyang in the event of war.

Critics of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy say pressure against allowing states like South Korea and Japan to build their nuclear arsenal have increased the danger of regional war. However, the Biden administration believes that the best way to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region is through diplomacy and cooperation.



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