The U.S. nuclear-powered submarine Michigan docked at a South Korean naval base in Busan from the end of June until last Friday. According to South Korean military sources on Wednesday, the Michigan, armed with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of 1,600 km, docked in Busan for a week to get fresh supplies and allow its crew a rest following exercises in waters off the Korean Peninsula.
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Navy posted a photograph of the docked submarine on its website. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post on Sunday said the nuclear-powered submarines Michigan, Ohio and Florida surfaced in Busan, Subic Bay in the Philippines and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean around the same time. This was not the first time that a nuclear-powered American submarine docked in Busan, but it is rare for the U.S. military to reveal photographs.
Military experts say it was a show of force by the U.S. against China following North Korea's sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan. The USS Michigan is a formidable weapon that is more than capable of grabbing the attention of Beijing officials, measuring 170 m in length, 12.8 m in width and with a full displacement capacity of 18,750 tons. It was originally built to carry 24 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles, but was refitted years ago at a cost of US$400 million to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles following the end of the Cold War, disarmament talks between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union and an increase in anti-terrorist maneuvers. The Tomahawk cruise missile is capable of accuracy on targets up to 1,609 km away and can shift trajectories in flight. Another weapon in the Michigan's arsenal are special forces troops. The submarine is capable of transporting 66 Navy SEALs.
The sub can also carry South Korean special forces troops for infiltration operations into North Korea in the event that a regime collapse in the North heightens the chances of nuclear weapons and missile theft or a full-blown war. The submarine apparently took part in joint military exercises with South Korea in the past carrying the South's special forces units.