USS Kentucky Make Port Call in South Korea, First SSBN Visit in 40 Years

July 18, 2023 5:33 PM
Sailors heave a line to bring the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) into port in Busan. US Navy Photo

Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) arrived in Busan, South Korea, the first visit by a U.S. submarine in four decades, U.S. Strategic Command announced Tuesday.

The visit to Busan was planned in the Washington Declaration, an agreement between Washington and Seoul to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries. As part of the declaration, the two countries agreed to additional deterrence.

The last time a U.S. ballistic nuclear submarine visited South Korea was in the 1980s, according to a release from the country’s Ministry of National Defense.

“The deployment of U.S. nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) on the Korean Peninsula is an example of action demonstrating that the US extended deterrence against the Republic of Korea will be firmly implemented,” Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-seop said in the release. “We are demonstrating a solid ROK-US combined defense posture to the people and the international community.”

Kentucky is based in Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, Washington.

The Ohio-class submarine fields Trident II D5 intercontinental ballistic missile and is one of 14 of the boats in the U.S. inventory.

Last month, the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN–727) pulled into Busan. Unlike Kentucky, Michigan has been converted from carrying nuclear ballistic missiles to fielding 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

The submarine arrived in Busan a week after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan. The U.S., the United Nations and Japan all launched protests in response.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Office of the Prime Minister tweeted that North Korea launched a suspected ICBM.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox