In the wake of a North Korea missile launch involving two short-range ballistic missiles, security experts suggest this might be a warning towards the U.S. nuclear submarine recently docked in South Korea.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — In a recent North Korea missile launch, two short-range ballistic missiles were fired in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday. Some analysts in Seoul interpret this as a potential veiled threat against the U.S. strategic nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea’s port city hours earlier.
These missiles, launched from the Sunan area near the capital Pyongyang, were detected between 3:30 and 3:46 a.m., according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. They traveled for about 550 kilometers before splashing into waters east of the Korean peninsula.
Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada estimated the missiles’ detected range at up to 600 kilometers, with their top altitude at 50 kilometers. He suggested they may have flown at an irregular trajectory. This act was deemed unacceptable by the Japanese defense minister, who stated that Japan’s foreign ministry has lodged a protest.
Realtime global combat capability.
USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) has arrived in Busan, ROK.
This is the first visit by a U.S. ballistic missile submarine in decades, an event outlined in this year’s Washington Declaration.#ExtendedDeterrence
— United States Strategic Command (@US_STRATCOM) July 18, 2023
Five hundred fifty kilometers is precisely the distance between Sunan and Busan, where the USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) is ported, noted Kim Dong Yup, professor of military and security studies at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul. Kim speculated that North Korea, currently in its summer military training period, may soon announce that it conducted an exercise to simulate detonating a tactical nuclear warhead mounted on its version of the Iskander over South Korea’s southern port, where the U.S. ballistic missile submarine is known to be.
For weeks, North Korea has expressed disapproval of the deployment of the U.S. nuclear submarine, which can carry 20 Trident II ballistic missiles, each capable of traveling some 12,000 kilometers with multiple nuclear warheads. The U.S. had pledged to South Korea in April to “further enhance the regular visibility of strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula, as evidenced by the upcoming visit of a U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine to [South Korea],” as recorded in the Washington Declaration.
This deployment marks the first of its kind since the USS Robert E. Lee ballistic missile submarine made a port call in South Korea in March of 1981. Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, had previously warned in a state media post, “The U.S. should be aware that the DPRK’s mode and scope of counteraction may be freer along with the increased ‘visibility’ of deploying strategic assets on the Korean peninsula.”
Meanwhile, North Korea has made no mention of the American soldier who, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “willfully and without authorization” crossed into the North’s territory Tuesday afternoon at the Joint Security Area (JSA) on the heavily fortified border dividing the two Koreas, still technically at war. Twenty-three year old Private 2nd Class Travis King made a dash while part of a JSA orientation tour, according to U.S. officials. It remains unclear how he made it to the JSA from the main international airport in Incheon, about 85 kilometers away, where he was supposed to be on a flight back to the U.S. where he was reportedly due to face disciplinary action.
North Korea Missile Launch: Short-Range Ballistic Missiles Fired in Potential Threat to U.S. Submarine