To acquire a South Korean nuclear submarine, Seoul is heading towards a standoff with Washington

Admiral Kim Myung-Soo explicitly called to develop a fleet of South Korean nuclear submarine, to counter the evolution of the submarine threat from Pyongyang, while he was questioned as part of the parliamentary hearings to appoint the future Chief of Staff of the country's armies.

Above all, he designated the United States as the main obstacle to this vital development for the country's security, while Seoul has become increasingly autonomous from Washington in matters of defense in recent years.

For several years, the South Korean authorities have been discussing, in an increasingly insistent manner, the possibility of equipping the South Korean Navy with nuclear attack submarines, in order to contain the growing threat linked to the new performances of nuclear vectors. North Koreans, but also Chinese and Russians.

Nuclear constraints linked to defense agreements between the United States and South Korea

Until then, however, the allusions made seemed relatively distant and without emphasis. Indeed, Seoul is bound, in this area, by a very restrictive power agreement negotiated with the United States which has ensured, since the end of the Korean War, the protection of the country, in particular with its nuclear and anti-missile umbrella. .

Ohio class SSBN, American nuclear ballistic missile submarine
The United States provides military protection to South Korea, including in the nuclear and strategic fields.

In return, South Korea and its armies are strictly prohibited from acquiring nuclear capabilities, the United States fearing that this will unbalance the Southeast Asian theater too much against Pyongyang, but especially against Beijing and Moscow. If this agreement naturally covers nuclear weapons, it also extends, by capillary action, to nuclear-powered ships, and more particularly to submarines.

North Korean performance in the field of strategic submarine vectors was, in fact, more than limited, making the need for Seoul to have nuclear-powered submersibles less. In recent years, however, Pyongyang has demonstrated new technological skills, with the development of new cruise and ballistic missiles that are much more capable than previous generations.

Pukguksong-3 missile, Hero Kim Gun-ok submarine: North Korean strategic submarine threat is growing rapidly for Seoul

This is how, just two years ago, the North Korean Navy tested for the first time the Pukguksong-3 medium-change ballistic missile, a medium-range ballistic vector (2 km estimated range), capable of carrying a nuclear charge, and of being launched by a diving submarine.

The threat worsened for Seoul in September 2023, with the launch of the new North Korean submarine " Hero Kim Gun-ok », a submersible derived from the Soviet Romeo class of the 50s, but armed with four of these ballistic missiles with medium change and nuclear capabilities, as well as six cruise missiles, also with medium change, and potentially armed with a nuclear warhead.

North Korean submarine hero Kim Gun-Soo launches missiles
North Korea's new Senpo-C “Hero Kim Gun-Son” submarine will be armed with 4 Pukguksong-3 SLBM nuclear missiles

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