WASHINGTON — Tensions between the United States and North Korea showed no signs of cooling this week, as President Trump said the U.S. is sending an “armada” to the region and North Korea retaliated by saying it’s “ready” for war.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful,” Trump told the Fox Business Network. “We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.”
The U.S. already had an aircraft carrier in the region. He also issued a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We have the best military people on Earth,” Trump said. “And I will say this: He is doing the wrong thing.”
North Korea has tested a series of missiles in recent years and has warned the U.S. and its allies that it will retaliate – perhaps with nuclear weapons – if provoked.
“If the U.S. dares opt for a military action … the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.,” a statement read on North Korea’s news service said, using the nation’s official acronym.
North Korea’s Submarines a Danger?
Meanwhile, North Korea’s navy has around 70 submarines in its fleet, CNBC reported. A few of those vessels are believed to be capable of launching ballistic missiles which can be equipped with nuclear warheads. North Korea is known to have at least 10 nuclear weapons.
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) would be a threat to the mainland of the United States if a North Korean submarine were able to cross the Pacific. Once a sub got within a few hundred miles of the U.S. coast, it could fire a nuclear missile at a large U.S. city such as Los Angeles or Seattle.
Experts believe that North Korea’s SLBMs have a range of around 600 miles, CNBC reported. North Korea has tested an SLBM that flew for 310 miles. Experts also think the DPRK has a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.
Seven years ago, a North Korean submarine apparently sank a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors, although the incident remains in dispute.
North Korean submarine missiles would easily evade anti-missile systems in South Korea that are only pointed north, Heritage Foundation national security specialist Bruce Klingner said.
“The problem with the SLBM is that it exposes South Korea’s flanks to attack,” Klingner said.
It is difficult to track North Korea’s sub fleet, Klingner said. At one point in 2015, South Korean officials lost track of 50 North Korean submarines.
“We didn’t know where they were at the time,” Klingner said. “One would hope that we would keep very close tabs on those that could launch the SLBM.”
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