S. Korea’s defense chief visits U.S. nuclear sub
SEOUL -- South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo on Saturday emphasized the significance of the "regular deployment of U.S. strategic assets" to the peninsula, citing continued North Korean threats.
He made the comments while visiting the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN-727), which arrived at the Busan naval port on Friday for a routine tour.
He was accompanied by Rep. Kim Young-woo of the minor opposition Bareun Party, who chairs the parliament's defense committee, and other members of the panel.
"Now is the very time to show the power of close South Korea-U.S. coordination under the circumstances that North Korea's threats go on," Song said, according to his ministry.
He added, "The strengthening of the regular rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets demonstrate the allies' strong commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula."
Song also said the two sides will keep bolstering such "extended deterrence" measures against the North.
The minister and the lawmakers looked around the inside of the submarine and were briefed on its operational capability.
They asked the sailors to maintain a thorough defense posture as the North will likely engage in additional provocations including the test-firing of submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Song especially gave pep talks to the U.S. sailors for their dedicated service to their ally.
He then headed to the THAAD missile defense base of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, by helicopter.
It marked the first tour of the new USFK base by a South Korean defense minister. South Korean Army Gen. Park Han-ki, who commands the Second Operation Command, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, the U.S. Eighth Army Commander, also joined the trip.
They inspected the THAAD system, composed of six interceptor rocket launchers, a powerful X-band radar and a fire control and communications unit.
More than 100 local residents and activists held a rally to protest the minister's visit but they did not attempt to block it.
The allies agreed to put the THAAD battery into operation amid the North's provocations in spite of strong opposition from residents there and from China. THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
Source: Yonhap News Agency