President Trump agreed in September 2017 to send more of the Pentagon’s “strategic assets” to South Korea on a rotational basis to deter North Korean provocations, but what exactly that means remains something of a mystery.
The U.S. assets — typically defined as submarines, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons or bombers — have long been involved in the standoff that began with the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement after open warfare subsided between the two Koreas.
The U.S. Navy typically keeps the movements of its submarines secret, but it also has periodically sent them to port in South Korea. The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, has appeared at Busan Naval Base in South Korea at least twice in 2017. It is capable of carrying cruise missiles and elite Navy SEALs, although not ballistic missiles.
More recently, the Navy announced last week it has plans for a massive exercise involving three aircraft carriers — the USS Nimitz, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Ronald Reagan — and their associated strike groups, each of which include dozens of aircraft and thousands of sailors and Marines.
Excerpts from Dan Lamothe, In standoff with North Korea, the U.S. keeps deployment of ‘strategic assets’ mysterious, Washington Post, Oct. 29 at 6:00
The 38 North, a US institute monitoring North Korea said that the country appears to be beginning or planning to extract plutonium, the core material of a nuclear bomb, at a nuclear plant in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang. Satellite imagery dated April 11, 2016 shows a vehicle loaded with tanks or casks in the premises of a nuclear reprocessing facility, according to the 38 North website operated by Johns Hopkins University’s US-Korea Institute in Washington. “Such tanks or casks could be used to supply chemicals used in a reprocessing campaign intended to produce additional plutonium, haul out waste products or a number of other related activities,” the institute said. Similar vehicles were observed in the early 2000s, it said, when North Korea extracted plutonium apparently as part of its nuclear programmes.
On April 4, 2016 the institute said plumes were detected from the reprocessing facility fueling the speculation that Pyongyang has engaged in additional production of plutonium.
Excerpts from Satellite images show North Korea may have begun extracting plutonium at nuclear facility, says US institute, Associated Press, Apr. 16, 2016