November 29, 2007

US Nuclear Submarine Makes Suprise Visit to Korea

Without a big fanfare, USS Connecticut, a nuclear-powered attack submarine of the Seawolf class, sneaked into the Pusan port in southern Korea. The photo was taken by a citizen reporter of the internet news site OhMyNews, who alerted others.

The US Navy was recently rebuffed by China in denied port call to Hong Kong (USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier), but obviously it has free and easy access to ports in South Korea. It is ironic that whereas the US is pushing diplomatically for nuclear non-proliferation by North Korea, it has brought in an advanced attack submarine capable of launching nuclear missiles to Korea at the same time. In fact, prior to the 90s, the US did station tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea and brought in ships carrying nuclear weapons to Korean shores. Moreover, tactical US military strategy in Korea included use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, the issue of nuclear non-proliferation in Korea goes back many years, but has only been raised widely in recent years.

Observers in South Korea are suggesting that the submarine's visit coincides with a change in the US global military strategy of realigning its naval and air forces from the Atlantic to the Pacific. By 2010, the goal is said to be 60% forces in Pacific and 40% in Atlantic. As an example, the USS Connecticut has been transferred to the Pacific Fleet from the Atlantic Fleet. The obvious US strategy is to check China's growing power in the region, as well as keeping eyes on North Korea and Russia -- and South Korea will likely play a key role in this setup. Despite civilian opposition, a new Korean naval base is being built in the Jeju island (known as a "peace island"), which will provide the US military with a key strategic outlet in the region.

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