Fearing nuclear war, America has stationed a nuclear-armed submarine on North Korea’s doorstep for the first time in 40 years.
Washington and South Korea have stepped up defense talks after Kim Jong-un launched his most powerful ballistic missile to date last week.
As tensions rise in the region, allies conduct joint warfare exercises using advanced stealth aircraft and US strategic assets.
And for the first time since the 1980s, a nuclear-armed US ballistic-missile submarine arrived in South Korea on Tuesday.
Seoul confirmed the 18,750-ton USS Kentucky has entered a key naval base in Busan, 200 miles southeast of Seoul.
The 170 meter long USS Kentucky is one of the largest nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines in the world – and can carry more than 20 Trident II ballistic missiles.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said the operation was a testament to the united force against Kim Jong-un.
“For North Korea, it demonstrates the alliance’s overwhelming capability and poise while demonstrating to our people and the international community the solid joint defense stance of South Korea and the United States,” he said.
The move came as the US and South Korea held their first Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) meeting in Seoul — with the goal of “strengthening nuclear deterrence against North Korea.”
White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters, “As we speak today, an American nuclear submarine is turning on a port in Busan.”
“This is the first visit by an American nuclear submarine in decades.”
The last time Washington deployed a nuclear-capable submarine to South Korea was in 1981.
Washington had already announced in April that it would use the submarine.
The US has also promised to send more resources to South Korea to deter North Korea, including aircraft carriers, submarines and long-range bombers.
On Sunday, Japan, South Korea and the US held joint naval warfare drills to show their strength against North Korea.
A South Korean naval officer said the exercise focused on detecting and tracking a computer-simulated ballistic target.
This comes after North Korea last week launched its most powerful ballistic missile to date – the Hwasong 18 solid-fuel ICBM.
It wasn’t clear how far the missile reached – but it was fired towards North Korea’s eastern waters.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington said it was in a “clear, flagrant violation” of many UN Security Council resolutions.
During Tuesday’s meeting, South Korea and the US agreed to share information, build a secure communications network — and coordinate and plan a possible North Korean nuclear attack.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said, “Through a South Korea-US alliance shifting to a new nuclear-based paradigm, we will make significant efforts to fundamentally block North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.”
But North Korea blasted the bold maneuver.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of ruler Kim Jong-un, said such measures would “take North Korea even further away from possible talks”.
She dismissed the idea of talks with the US as “a daydream”.
“It is a daydream for the US to believe that it can stop the advance of the DPRK … and achieve irreversible disarmament by temporarily suspending joint military exercises,” she said.
The best way to keep the peace is to deter the US with force “instead of solving the problem with the gangster-like Americans in a friendly way,” Kim Yo Jong said.
China also criticized the new nuclear advisory group for escalating tensions in the region.