US soldier enters North Korea, US nuclear sub enters South Korean waters
On Tuesday, a US soldier was snatched by North Korean authorities after he crossed the heavily fortified DMZ border from South Korea in the "truce village" of Panmunjom. We know the soldier, Private 2nd Class Travis King, was facing disciplinary action by the US military after being held in South Korea on assault charges and that he "willfully" crossed the border. What we don’t know is how Kim Jong Un will treat him, or how hard Washington will work to get him back given the bizarre circumstances. The White House said Tuesday that the Defense Department had reached out to its counterparts in Pyongyang, so the incident has – at the very least – offered Washington a rare opportunity to reach out to North Korean officials.
We’ll be watching for more information about this incident in the coming days, but don’t let the headlines distract you from the other big story from the Korean Peninsula. That, in our view, is a US nuclear-armed submarine making a port of call in South Korea for the first time in 42 years.
By deploying the sub in South Korean waters, US President Joe Biden delivers on his pledge to President Yoon Suk Yeol in exchange for Seoul not seeking to acquire homegrown nukes. In theory, this would allow America to nuke North Korea within minutes instead of hours (by launching from Guam) if Kim attacks. But it doesn't really address South Korean reservations that the US president won't give the order fast enough.
Still, the closer the weapons are, the better they serve as a deterrent for Pyongyang. And the new sub shows both Kim and Yoon that the US remains fully committed to its nuclear security umbrella for the South.