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US Navy Seals tasked with North Korea 'decapitation' strike could be part of exercises

Nicola Smith
The USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered US Navy submarine, arrives in the port of Busan on Friday - AFP

A unit of US special forces tasked with carrying out “decapitation” operations may be aboard a nuclear-powered submarine docked in the South Korean port of Busan, the nation’s newswire reported on Monday, citing a defence source.

The USS Michigan, an 18,000-metric ton submarine, arrived in Busan on Friday, ahead of a ten day joint US-South Korean drill led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

The US Navy maintains that the Michigan, known for carrying special-ops teams, is docked in a “routine port visit.” The US military also denies training for decapitation missions or regime change, and does not typically comment on Navy SEAL deployments.

However, the presence on board the Michigan of what appeared to be silos for tiny submarines used to transport US Navy SEALs for their most covert missions deep inside enemy territory, has increased speculation that they may take part in training sessions.

The Navy confirmed to Business Insider that the pods, spotted on top of the submarine, are used by Naval Special Warfare units.

A U.S. MH-60S Sea Hawk flies by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Shimakaze as it steams behind the Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald ReaganCredit: Reuters

Earlier this year, the South Korean media reported that US special forces, including SEAL Team Six, the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden, would take part in the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint military drills in March, to practise incapacitating North Korea’s leadership in the event of conflict.

North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is “extremely nervous” of clandestine assassination plots, according to South Korea’s intelligence agency.

After Pyongyang detonated its sixth nuclear test in September, South Korean defence minister, Song young-moo, announced that a “decapitation unit” of special forces officers would be established by the end of the year.

Although the unit would not be assigned to literally decapitate North Korean leaders, defence officials said the unit could conduct cross-border night-time raids.  

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong-un fear for his life,” Shin Won-sik, a retired three star general told the New York Times.

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