The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan arrived in Busan on Friday, one day after North Korea launched a pair of ballistic missiles into the sea. File Photo by MC2 Jermaine Ralliford/U.S. Navy/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL. June 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. nuclear submarine arrived in South Korea on Friday, Seoul's Defense Ministry said, one day after North Korea launched a pair of ballistic missiles into the sea.
The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarine, or SSGN, docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.
The visit marks the first time in almost six years that an SSGN has stopped in South Korea, and comes after Pyongyang fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday evening.
The missiles, which Japan said landed within the waters of its exclusive economic zone, were an apparent response to joint U.S.-South Korean live-fire drills that ended earlier in the day. The weapons test was Pyongyang's first since a failed attempt to launch a spy satellite at the end of May, as tensions remain elevated on the Korean Peninsula.
On the occasion of the Michigan's visit, the U.S. and South Korean navies "plan to strengthen their special warfare capabilities and interoperability to respond to North Korea's ever-increasing threat through joint special warfare training," the Defense Ministry said.
Washington and Seoul have shored up their military cooperation over the past year, holding several large-scale joint exercises that Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned as preparations for an invasion.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden adopted the Washington Declaration in April, a nuclear cooperation pact that pledged to further enhance the "regular visibility" of strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula.
The submarine's visit is a practical implementation of the Washington Declaration, South Korean Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Kim Myung-soo said in a statement.
"It demonstrates the overwhelming ability and posture of the South Korea-U.S. alliance to realize 'peace through strength,'" he added.
The USS Michigan was commissioned in 1982 as a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and converted to a guided-missile submarine in 2007. The 18,750-ton sub is 560 feet long and can carry a payload of over 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The United States last sent an SSGN to South Korea in October 2017.
The Washington Declaration also includes a pledge to deploy a nuclear ballistic missile submarine to the South, but no timetable has been specified.