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N.Korea dismisses legitimacy of sending US nuclear submarine

N.Korean media steps up criticism of Washington Declaration, boasts greater alignment with China, Russia

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : May 1, 2023 - 15:47

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The Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741) conducts a logistics stop at Naval Base Guam in April. (Photo - US Pacific Fleet) The Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741) conducts a logistics stop at Naval Base Guam in April. (Photo - US Pacific Fleet)

North Korean state media on Monday refuted the legitimacy of deploying a US nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea, as part of its ongoing criticism of the new landmark nuclear deal signed by the leaders of South Korea and the United States.

Pyongyang has released a spate of public statements that denounce the Washington Declaration inked by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and President Joe Biden on Wednesday. The new deterrence strategy aims to better address escalating nuclear and missile threats from North Korea through closer alliance coordination by using the full force of the alliance, including the US’ nuclear weaponry.

Most of the statements, which are intended to stir up anti-US and South Korean sentiment, have been published by North Korea’s most-circulated newspaper, Rodong Sinmun. The newspaper's primary readership is domestic.

But Monday’s North Korean statement put a greater focus on criticizing the US commitment to dispatching an Ohio-class, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, or SSBN, to South Korea in the declaration to “further enhance the regular visibility of strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.”

The greater display of US strategic assets is the key part of the US' efforts to enhance its extended deterrence, which is the US’ commitment to deter or respond to coercion and external attacks on its allies and partners with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear weaponry.

The deployment will take place for the first time since the early 1980s, following the port visits of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to South Korea in the 1970s.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Friday clarified that the upcoming visit of a SSBN does not violate the inter-Korean Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992. The ministry said article 1 stipulates that the two Koreas “shall not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.”

But North Korean state media notably claimed that the US is behind South Korea’s ludicrous statement to lay the ground for more frequent deployments of its strategic assets to the region.

“Lurking behind it is also a black-hearted design to hype the ‘legitimacy’ of the regular deployment of its strategic nuclear submarine near the Korean Peninsula and thus invent the ‘legal justification’ for openly bringing its huge strategic assets there in the future,” Choe Ju-hyon, an international security analyst, said in an English-language article issued by state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“It is just aimed to dodge the responsibility for the worst-ever nuclear-related crimes it has committed by systematically destroying and violating the nuclear non-proliferation system.”

Choe also claimed that the US has been seeking to “turn the whole of South Korea into its biggest nuclear war outpost in the Far East and effectively use it for attaining its strategy for dominating the world.”

In its Monday edition, the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, also carried an article featuring criticism of the Washington Declaration from Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministries. The article was in line with North Korea’s continuing move to show its greater alignment with China and Russia amid the US’ deteriorating relations with the two countries.

North Korea’s main newspaper also highlights how Chinese state-run media outlets, including the Xinhua News Agency, denounced the outcomes of the South Korea-US summit.

North Korea made its first response to the allies’ new nuclear deterrence plan by releasing a statement of Kim Yo-jong, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, on Saturday.

“The more the enemies are dead set on staging nuclear war exercises, and the more nuclear assets they deploy in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula, the stronger the exercise of our right to self-defense will become in direct proportion to them,” Kim said in her English-language statement.

Kim’s pronouncement was later carried on the Sunday edition of the Rodong Sinmun along with another commentary issued under the name of KCNA.

The two statements issued over the weekend concentrated on making a pretext for North Korea’s nuclear build-up at a juncture where South Korea and the US seek to strengthen the alliance and US extended deterrence.

The KCNA commentary underscored that Yoon’s state visit to the US “shows that the DPRK should neither hesitate nor stop for even a little and even a moment to become stronger and more thoroughly prepared,” referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.