- Historic Visit: For the first time since the 1980s, a Ohio-class US Nuclear Submarine USS Michigan visits South Korea, showcasing the strength of the alliance.
- Coordination Talks: South Korea and the US launch the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) to better coordinate responses in the event of a nuclear war with North Korea.
- Manifestation of Commitments: The US nuclear submarine’s visit reaffirms America’s commitment to South Korea’s defence and security.
- No Need for Nuclear Weapons: The discussions in the NCG aim to ensure there is no need for South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons.
- Allied Nuclear Response: Both sides agree to facilitate information sharing and coordination in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, with an “overwhelming” allied response.
- Building Deterrence: The new nuclear consultative group is seen as a starting point to build a strong and effective deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
- Regional Concerns: China and North Korea criticise the group’s formation, expressing concerns about increased tensions on the Korean peninsula.
- Transparency and Information Sharing: The NCG’s objective is to provide South Korea with more transparency and direct connection with defence and deterrence planning.
- Strengthening Alliance: The South Korea-US alliance is upgraded to a new nuclear-based paradigm, further enhancing security cooperation between the two nations.
- Security Amid ICBM Test: North Korea’s recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) adds urgency to regional security concerns, prompting discussions on strategic assets and military responses.
In a significant development for US-South Korea relations, the Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arrived at a port in Busan, South Korea, on June 16, 2023. This marks the first time a US nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine has visited South Korea since the 1980s.
The visit comes as both nations commence talks to coordinate responses in the event of a nuclear conflict with North Korea. White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell confirmed the visit, which was previously announced during a joint declaration at the summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden in April.
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The main focus of the discussions is the newly established Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), aimed at enhancing coordination for an allied nuclear response in case of any potential conflict with North Korea. The formation of the NCG comes amidst growing calls in South Korea for its own nuclear weapons, a move that the United States opposes.
During the first Nuclear Consultative Group discussion held in Seoul, both sides agreed to facilitate information sharing, coordination, and planning to respond to a North Korean nuclear attack, which would be met with an “overwhelming” allied response.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol expressed his optimism about the NCG and its potential to strengthen the alliance’s deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. He emphasised that the group would serve as a starting point for building a robust and effective deterrence mechanism.
However, the formation of the NCG has drawn criticism from China and North Korea, who view it as heightening tensions in the region. In response to the NCG discussions, North Korea recently condemned the group for “openly discussing the use of nukes” and warned against allied plans to increase displays of military force.
A senior US administration official clarified that the NCG’s objective is primarily information sharing and enhancing transparency with South Korean allies, rather than involving them in US nuclear war planning.
The USS Michigan’s historic visit to South Korea signifies the strong commitment to defence cooperation between the two nations and serves as a crucial step in addressing regional security challenges. The NCG discussions will play a vital role in ensuring the stability and peace of the Korean peninsula and the broader Indo-Pacific region.