Business Insider is claiming that President Trump “may have revealed the location of ‘nuclear submarines'” during his phone call with Philippines’ president Duterte in April, a transcript of which has been released.
However, what Trump told the Philippine president is very general: “We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”
The Business Insider article makes the point that what Trump means is unclear: Is he referring to nuclear-powered submarines or submarines with nuclear weapons? However, all current U.S. combat submarines are nuclear powered; adding to the potential confusion is the fact that Trump is not known for precision with his words.
The article also states that Business Insider (among other sources) previously reported that the USS Michigan, an Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine, was heading to the seas near North Korea. The Michigan, like other subs in its class, is capable of being armed with 154 BGM-109 Tomahawk missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads (although the nuclear version was reportedly withdrawn from service in 2013). It has also been modified with a modular dry dock shelter to host Navy SEALS and their equipment.
Thus, Trump’s statement to Duterte that there are two nuclear submarines in the region of the Korean Peninsular is hardly revelatory or a threat to national security. It is information which has previously been reported and not even surprising, given the tension with North Korea and the fact that there is already the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the region, which the Michigan was sent to join. Business Insider itself also notes that only the captains and crews of the subs even know exactly where they are at any one time. So, to say that there are two subs in the region is not the threat to national security that some would like to imply.