North Korea’s Underwater Nuclear Test Raises Tensions Amidst U.S.-Japan-South Korea Naval Drills
North Korea claimed on the 19th that it tested a submarine nuclear weapons system in response to the trilateral naval exercise conducted by South Korea, the United States, and Japan in the waters off Jeju Island for three days from the 15th.
A spokesperson for the North Korean Ministry of National Defense defined the trilateral naval exercise as an “act that seriously threatens the safety of the nation” in a speech titled “We will never tolerate reckless military confrontation madness” disclosed to the Korean Central News Agency on the same day.
The spokesperson said, “The Underwater Weapons System Research Institute of the National Defense Science Academy conducted an important test of the Sea Wave-5-23 underwater nuclear weapons system under development in the East Sea of Korea.” However, the test timing and results were not disclosed.
He continued, “Our military’s underwater nuclear response is getting more completed,” and emphasized that “the corresponding actions at sea and underwater to curb the military hostile acts of the US and allied navies should rightfully continue.”
According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, the navies of South Korea, the United States, and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted the largest-ever joint naval exercise in the southern waters off Jeju Island from the 15th to the 17th. Two vessels, including the Korean Navy’s Aegis, Sejong the Great-class destroyer, five vessels, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Carl Vinson belonging to the US Navy’s 1st Carrier Strike Group, and two vessels, including the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyer Kongo participated in this exercise. Unusually, nine warships participated in the trilateral naval exercise, which generally involved about five vessels.
Carl Vinson, known as the “floating military base,” is 333 meters long and weighs about 100,000 tons. This can carry over 90 aircraft, including the Hawkeye early-warning (E-2C) and Super Hornet fighter (F/A-18). The F-35C fighter squadron, the first 5th generation stealth fighter in the history of the US Navy, is deployed on Carl Vinson.