US nuclear-capable submarine departs from South Korea

(Update 1: changes head, lede, adds information about US submarine’s departure from South Korea)

Seoul, July 21 (EFE).- The United States nuclear-capable submarine USS Kentucky departed from South Korea on Friday, four days after its arrival to send a message of deterrence to Pyongyang.

The US submarine sailed from Busan, located about 320 kilometers (199 miles) southeast of Seoul, South Korean agency Yonhap reported.

Earlier in the day, South Korea said that the US submarine’s arrival on its coast and a meeting of the allies’ Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) awee “a legitimate defensive response” to North Korean weapons tests and warned it about its threats.

North Korea’s National Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam released a statement Thursday saying the arrival of the USS Kentucky submarine is a “direct nuclear threat” and that the NCG discussed “the plan for using nuclear weapons against [North Korea]” during its inaugural meeting on Wednesday.

The South’s Ministry of National Defense delivered its retort on Friday.

“Yesterday (July 20), North Korea misrepresented and criticized the purpose of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) held by South Korea and the United States and the US strategic nuclear submarine (SSBN) call in South Korea through a statement in the name of the defense ministry,” it replied in a statement.

Neither is “a plot to use nuclear weapons or a nuclear threat against North Korea, as North Korea claims, but a legitimate defensive response by the [SK]-US alliance against North Korea’s continuing nuclear and missile threats.”

The sending of the USS Kentucky, which marked the first arrival of an SSBN on the peninsula since 1981, and the creation of the NCG are a result of the declaration signed in April between the US and South Korea, by which Washington undertakes to reinforce the so-called “extended deterrence” mechanism through which it protects its ally and seeks to discourage Pyongyang from continuing with its increasing development of weapons of mass destruction.

The NCG in particular is a mechanism for coordinating US responses to possible North Korean attacks, including the nuclear option.

The North Korean defense minister also said on Thursday that the deployment of the submarine and other US strategic assets “may fall under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the [North Korean] law on the nuclear force policy” that North Korea approved in September of last year to regulate its atomic arsenal.

Faced with this threat, Seoul on Friday insisted “any nuclear attack on the ROK-US alliance by North Korea will be met with an immediate, overwhelming, and decisive response from the alliance, and through this, we strongly warn that the North Korean regime will face an end.”

After the failure of the 2019 denuclearization negotiations, tensions have risen again on the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang rejecting all offers of dialogue and conducting a record number of missile tests. Seoul and Washington have their large-scale joint military exercises and deployed US strategic assets to the region. EFE


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